Sexual Assault, Justice, and Just-ness
by Laura L. Finley
I, like many sexual assault advocates, have struggled with two competing feelings about the harshness of the criminal justice system versus the treatment of rapists. On one hand, I believe in second chances, am critical of the prison industrial complex, and disavow mass incarceration as an alleged “solution” to crime. I am especially troubled by the racism of our criminal justice system, which has resulted in the incarceration of far too many black men. On the other hand, the gentle treatment given to sexual assailants brings tears to my eyes.
Given that it is incredibly difficult for a victim to not only report sexual assault but also to undergo the terrifying and humiliating physical examination, then to endure the victim-blaming that inevitably occurs in the courtroom, I find myself disturbed by the ridiculously light sentences handed down to individuals who are guilty. Of course, even worse are those who never face any punishment, which is some 97 percent of rapists. Below are just a few instances to illustrate how the courts minimize sexual assault. What is notable is that the perpetrators are privileged white males. Yet advocating harsh sentences inevitably has a more significant impact on people of color than on these white males. Hence the dilemma—but, perhaps these binary options are not the only ones before us. (more…)