The confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh as an Associate Justice to the Supreme Court is now behind us. But the damage left in its wake has raised so much awareness. Awareness of the possible destruction of our foundation of democracy that says one is innocent until proven guilty, the awareness of how many survivors of sexual abuse are out there and need our help and most of all the awareness of how divided we are as a nation.
What to do? Where do we go from here? According to RAINN, very 90 seconds someone in the US is sexually assaulted. Currently, there are 321,000 age 12 or over victimized by rape or sexual assault each year. For more information please see their statistics page at: https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence. One out of every six women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. This does not even address the sexual assault directed at those under the age of 12 and those numbers are huge.
Around the world in other countries the statistics are even worse. When you think of the invasion of our bodies, the destruction of our lives, the lingering shame and hopelessness it is not only unacceptable it is criminal. If someone is murdered the punishment for the murderer is likely either life in prison or a death sentence. When sexual abuse has occurred, someone has not only violated us physically, they have violated us mentally, sexually and emotionally. Just to start with those perpetrators should be given much stiffer sentences than they currently get. More women need to be believed, to feel safe in coming forward with their stories. But this not in any way means that someone accused of rape is not innocent until proven guilty. Those who want to tell their stories should remember three things. It takes great courage to do so. Once you come forward it is the first step in healing. (The REPAIR program calls it Recognition). Be prepared and aware that while you cannot necessarily always prove your story (your perpetrator may be deceased, you may have no proof or corroboration to your story) that in the honest telling of it you may be saving others from experiencing this same heinous crime. Most rapists don’t rape one time; they are serial rapists.
But now that our nation is divided so badly we have two primary sides. On one side are the thousands of women who feel Judge Kavanaugh is guilty and want justice for themselves and others. On the other side are the thousands of women who have husbands, brothers, sons, nephews, grandsons and they don’t want anyone to come forward with lies just because they were victimized. You cannot, and I repeat, you cannot accuse a person just because you want someone to pay for what was done to you and you don’t care about innocent until proven guilty.
So where do we go from here? First, we must remember that everyone who has a story of being sexually abused, be they male or female, deserves the right to tell their story without shame, without guilt.
Second, we must never forget that while the US Constitution does not specifically mention “innocent until proven guilty”, our system presumes innocence, which means that legally speaking, even the obviously guilty are treated as though they are innocent, until they are proven otherwise.
The concept of the presumption of innocence is one of the most basic in our system of justice. However, in so many words, it is not codified in the text of the Constitution. This basic right comes to us, like many things, from English jurisprudence, and has been a part of that system for so long, that it is considered common law.
The 6th Amendment in the American Constitution guarantees an individual the right to a fair, speedy, and public trial. It also enables an individual to have legal assistance, regardless of the charge, and the right to confront adverse witnesses and notice of accusations. These rights are given to all men or women under trial for any sort of wrongdoing. They establish the “innocent until proven guilty” mantra that is present in the United States legal system.
Aside from this bit of history regarding innocent until proven guilty we still need desperately to find a way to address the growing concern of sexual assault. Anyone in a position of power who coerces a person of lesser power into any sort of boundary violation dealing with their sexuality is a perpetrator. In order to lessen the numbers and provide more protection for not only those who are in danger of being a first-time victim but those who have already been victimized we need two things. One is prevention and the other is healing. We must also not forget that our standards of punishment for perpetrators is a joke.
The King County Sexual Assault Resource Center in Renton, WA has published a parents’ guide to talking to children about sexual assault. It is called “he told me not to tell” and free copies are available to the public. Please call 425.226.5062 for a copy. It will go a long way towards helping parents educate their children as to the dangers regarding child sexual assault.
For those who have children on social media you must educate and monitor your children, especially adolescents who think they are adults and have no idea how little they know. If we can do just those two things we will get a better handle on prevention. Below is A Child’s Bill of Rights:
- A child has the right to decide who can and cannot touch any part of their body.
- A child has the right, in fact the duty, to report to a safe person any time someone attempts to touch their body inappropriately.
- A child has the right to set boundaries regarding any part of their own body.
- A child has the right to dial 911 on the phone if they think they are in any danger from someone wanting to touch their body inappropriately and ask for help NOW.
- A child has the right to be believed if they are honestly reporting any danger from someone touching or attempting to touch their body inappropriately.
- A child has the right to run away or scream for help if someone approaches them in a manner that seems scary or “yucky”.
Please read these RIGHTS to your child frequently. They belong to them. Help them to understand what each one means.
Tell your child frequently:
“Your body belongs to you; you can decide who touches it.”
Copyright (c) 2011 by Marjorie McKinnon. All Rights Reserved.
Once a person has been sexually assaulted they need someone to believe their story. If you need help call the National Sexual Abuse Hot Line at 800.656.HOPE (4673), you’ll be routed to a local RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) affiliate organization based on the first six digits of your phone number. Cell phone callers have the option to enter the ZIP code of their current location to more accurately locate the nearest sexual assault service provider. Next, they need a program for recovery and the willingness to take the first step. Please see our website at www.thelamplighters.org for more information on how to take that first step. Start out with the following page on Abuse Victim Profile, http://www.thelamplighters.org/llblog01/abuse-victim-profile-2/ . There is a wealth of information on that website. Check out the Table of Contents, the book page, especially the REPAIR Your Life page and then, http://www.thelamplighters.org/llblog01/the-repair-program/ which explains more about the actual REPAIR program and how it works.
Good luck! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or if I can help in any way.