Our second sentencing case was quite a shock; it involved a soccer coach and a young player who was 13 years old at the time of the assaults. One of CCASA’s PACES workers gave us a brief description of the case and, out of instinct, I envisioned what this soccer coach looked like. I visualized a man in his 40′s. He’d have a family with children, and would probably wear an intimidating and eerie face. Well, how wrong I was! The offender was 23 years old (20 when the assaults were committed), enrolled in post secondary schooling, and was a “typical” young man. This was all quite unexpected because, when we were waiting outside the court room, I looked over at the family wondering which one was him. I barely gave him a second glance. So when this young man walked into the convicted booth, I was honestly shocked. I really shouldn’t have been, but I was.
Looking back on that whole situation, I realize how the general population has grown a preconceived idea of what an “offender” looks and acts like. This is why it is important to understand that sexual assault can happen to ANYONE, and that ANYONE can be an offender. Never assume that just because someone looks respectable that they could never do such horrible things. This was the lesson that I learned.
Once the court was in session and the judge started reading out the charges, I couldn’t help but notice just how many people were on the side of the defendant versus the side of the survivor. The ratio between the two was astounding. If the reporters weren’t in the room, it would have been about 7 vs. 18. The support for the offender doubled our own, and I felt extremely small. How could so many people support this man who sexually assaulted a young boy? It was a question that certainly followed me home that night.
So after the judge finished the descriptions and continued onto the sentencing, I was quite certain that justice would be served. What I heard was a load of crap! This judge decided that 1 year of incarceration and 3 years of probation was an appropriate sentence. 1 year! That’s it! I swear I could feel the family’s sigh of relief. Why did the judge decide this was an appropriate decision? She explained that because this young man had good references from the community, strong family support, and high grades in school his rehabilitation would be successful. I swear my jaw got dislocated.
“Good character?” Seriously? Even after being found guilty, he still maintained his innocence. This only proves that he feels no guilt or remorse for what he has done. How do you go through rehab when you don’t think you’ve done anything wrong?
So let’s get the facts down; A 20 year old man took a position of power over children and abused it. He sexually assaulted this young 13 year old boy on several occasions over a period of time. His defense was that the boy’s mother wanted a relationship with him so she concocted this whole story. It seems to be a recurring situation in sexual assaults that the offenders try to be the victim, and try to justify their actions. For all of this pain and suffering, he got 1 year. That’s not what justice looks like to me! What do you think?
I left the court room disappointed and quite depressed. Why are victims given the crappy hand while offenders get to keep aces up their sleeves? How is this justice? By law, this outcome was “justice served,” but I can’t accept it as emotional or personal justice. It takes so much courage and strength to come forward and report these crimes and then, on top of that, survivors have to testify against their assailant in court. I can’t image how difficult that must be. All I know is that this is still a crime that has little to no consequences which ultimately shows how society has silenced criminal act. It’s time for change, and knowledge is the key!