If you live in Missoula, you are likely aware that a young man was very recently tried for the crime of sexual intercourse without consent, or rape. I'm not going to link news stories to my blog. You can go find them yourself if you want to read them.
Coupla things stand out for me.
The accused is (was) a college athlete. He was star on the UM football team until the "alleged" victim reported the crime. UM athletes have been having a difficult time staying on the right side of the law lately. There have been accusations of drug use, violent crimes, DUI with fatality, sexual crimes, etc. I used to cheer whole heartedly for "my" Griz, but nope, not anymore. Not until they as a whole clean up their act.
The woman who courageously stepped forward and reported the "alleged" rape is a student at UM. She's remained anonymous. The press has treated her with dignity but the blogosphere has been downright brutal toward her.
I have a HUGE problem with all the "alleged" this and "alleged" that. A woman was forced to have sex against her will (according to the woman). I'll say it. She was raped. Saying that she was "allegedly raped" is like saying, "Well, I know you said you were raped, but I don't believe you." She was raped. Nobody knows that more than she does. Call it straight up straight forward rape. It doesn't matter that the two were acquaintances. She was raped. It doesn't matter that at first, she was okay with what was happening and then said stop. She was raped. It didn't matter that she didn't completely freak out afterward. She was raped. It shouldn't matter that she didn't respond as a rape victim "should" respond. She was raped.
I do not know who this woman is. But I am so proud of her. I know from my own experience, that stepping forward to report something so terrible is an excruciatingly difficult thing to do. I know that the investigative process is nightmarish for the victim. Yet this young woman stuck with it. I know that even getting as far as going to court is exhausting. And she kept at it. And then the trial, where lawyers rip to shreds her dignity, her story, and make aim for her soul - I know that is barely survivable. Yet she kept going. To this young woman, thank you. You have set a beautiful example for other women. You didn't get justice. Jordan Johnson was found not guilty. It's not fair. It never will be fair. Our legal system isn't set up for fair. And I'm sorry. I know how hard it is. While I haven't walked in your shoes, I do know more than many about the feel and flavor of what you went through. Dear woman, dear anonymous brave courageous woman, please, do not give up. Keep asking for help. Don't doubt your experience. I believe you.
I know that justice is hard to find. As a woman who herself has been raped and who has had experience with cases in court systems, I know that justice is elusive. Many years have passed in my story. In those years, I'm come to know that justice is not what comes out of our courts. I've learned to find justice in other ways. For me, some days just daring to get out of bed is a win for me. Every day that I want to cut and don't is a win for me. Every day that I put my feed down onto the earth and hold my head high brings justice to me. Every time a woman is believed, there is a little sliver of justice.
Justice works in mysterious ways. I was gang raped in Missoula. It happened at the Clark Fork Inn on the corner of West Broadway and Scott Street. I think it was part of a bachelor party or something. One after another, the men took their turn with me while others held me down. It was terrifying in every way. I wanted to die. They weren't kind enough to kill me. After several hours, they let me go. I got in my car and drove to a friends' house. They told me they couldn't deal with my "drama" so I went home. I showered until all the hot water was gone then showered some more. I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed. I went to bed, curled in a ball and stayed there until it dawned on me that I might have gotten pregnant. So I drug myself out of bed and drove to my doctor's office. I asked to see her. When she came in to the exam room, I screamed when she touched me. She was very gentle. No exam. I'd scrubbed any evidence away in the shower. She gave me the morning after pill and sent me home. The pill made me sick. I was too afraid to go to work for weeks. When I finally did sum up the courage to tell my friends, I cried and screamed so hard I thought I might never stop. I did stop. And, somehow, I kept on. Several months later, I was at an NA meeting. The meeting had started already when a young man walked in. I spotted him immediately and recognized him. He'd already sat down before he spotted me. When he did, he panicked. I was panicked too but tried really hard not to show it. All he said was, "I done something really really bad" over and over again. It was like he couldn't look at me but he couldn't not look at me either. At the end of the meeting, I bolted. I've never been back to that meeting. Years pass. Life happens. I marry and move to a new house in a different town. I join the fire department. And then, one day, my pager goes off, "respond to so and so, such and such lane for a vehicle on fire." I suit up and hop on the engine with the other firefighters. We arrive on scene to find a car burning and a man staggering away from the burning mess. The men on my truck and on the truck behind us go to work fighting the fire. I grab a medical bag and radio and walk toward the man who we saw staggering away from the fire. I find him lying on the ground, gasping for air. As I kneel beside him, I recognize him. I first flash with rage and think I'll kill him. Then I see that he's suffered smoke inhalation. I radio our medic for permission to begin to treat him. As I am putting the oxygen mask over his face, he recognizes me. He's too weak to stand up and run. He sees that I am the one in power. The medical truck arrives and helps me with patient care. Since there was an initial explosion, the man was thrown. So we procede with full spinal precautions. We strap and tape him to a backboard. All through this, he's crying like a baby. His tears making streaks on his soot covered face. He keeps saying, "I'm sorry. I'm so so sorry." The other people treating him have no idea and think he's just upset about the fire. I know. I saw the fear in his eyes. I reached out my hand and held his. Yes, we both knew. He had been one of the men who raped me that night. We both knew that I could have probably killed him that day. I got to make my own justice happen by being present to his fear. I held his hand our of kindness. And when the ambulance took him away, I sat down and cried. For me, that day, justice had been served.
If you're waiting for the courts to bring you justice, you'll never find it. But, if you choose to live your life with your head held high, then one day, justice might find you. Will you be open and ready when it does? By living your life, one day at a time, keeping alive, move beyond surviving each moment, learn to find joy, learn to love your beautiful self, then you earn back justice. No, you can never again have what was stolen from you. Mourn that loss. Be sad. Be angry, rage and scream. And continue to live. It's by living every day that we bring ourselves justice.
So, dear strong anonymous woman, kudos to you. You are my hero. I believe you. And I am so, so proud of you.
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