Breathtaking

Blind_Justice_(2830780815)
By Tim Green from Bradford (Blind Justice) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The news out of Alaska shows that the public outrage over Brock Turner’s light sentence  (and similar cases) made no difference. It’s like they’re doubling down on letting these creeps off the hook.

“Judge Michael Corey accepted the deal, noting the outcome of the case could be described as ‘breathtaking.'”

Interesting word choice.

Justin Schneider was let off with time served. 1 year. Guidelines restricted sentencing to 2 years because they’d accepted sex offender treatment. They do this in order to get the cooperation of the offender. I hope it works. I am skeptical it will. I know the victim will spend years, if not the rest of her life, dealing with the fallout from the trauma. He changed her and she doesn’t get off with “time served.”

BREATHTAKING.

We trauma survivors often hold our breath, “Chronic breath holding and effortful breathing are not healthy because the muscular effort, coupled with the effects of stress on the nervous, hormonal, and immune systems, can impair both physical and psychological function.” It’s a classic symptom of PTSD and Complex PTSD. Breath taking indeed. She has a life sentence of coping with strangulation – he literally took her breath – kidnapping, and sexual assault. He lost his job. Okay, he has a felony on his record. The overconcern with what the attacker has to cope with as he goes on in life, well, that is breathtaking.

I was in a therapy group for women molested as children and the therapist who ran it was the first person to mention holding my breath as a symptom of what had happened to me. At the same time, I was taking improv and met Tamara Silvera, vocal coach and a distant cousin by way of our Jamaican dads. I worked with her with the added bonus that when we were in class at the now-defunct IO West, she could signal me when I was holding my breath. I did it a lot. Now I’m more aware of it. I still hold my breath when I write about what happened to me. I started writing before #MeToo and am feeling an increasing sense of urgency knowing first-hand how many cannot or will not tell their stories and very much want and need those of us who can tell ours to speak up.

The news cycles since October 7, 2016 and that infamous Access Hollywood tape have been a nightmare for anyone who has been sexually assaulted as an adult, as a child, or both. It got worse in October, 2017 with the Weinstein revelations. Coupled with the injustices from ignorant judges such as M Marc Kelly (Kevin Rojano-Nieto sodomized a 3 year old and Kelly cut 15 yrs off the mandatory minimum in 2015; the 4th District reversed the ruling & resentenced), Aaron Persky (recalled over Brock Turner), and Michael Corey in Alaska have caused immeasurable distress and despair from all of us who’ve suffered from sexual assault we’re now seeing in #WhyIDidntReport: “I say our, because I am included in this. When I read Trump’s tweet this morning, first I stopped breathing. When the most powerful person in the land denies your lived experience, it feels like someone punching you in the diaphragm.”

Blind justice is legal concept meant to point to neutrality when dispensing justice. Remember justice?

justice

n. 1) fairness. 2) moral rightness. 3) a scheme or system of law in which every person receives his/ her/its due from the system, including all rights, both natural and legal.

Moral rightness takes into account the effect the assault had on the victim, the sufferer. Fairness adheres to minimum sentencing requirements. There are strong indications we do not want a more just society, let alone a kinder one. But if we do, we’re going to have to fight harder for it, consider the victim’s POV, and have a much better understanding of trauma and its fallout. Because #TimesUp

strange stories

It’s been a week for strange stories. Robert McKee, screenwriting guru, said that people do bizarre or awful things more often and worse than you can imagine. They also have things happen to them that would challenge the most vivid imagination. Add in accidents, mistakes and catastrophes, and real life usually outdoes fiction. The crash of Continental Flt 3407 took the life of a 9/11 widow. She died in a fiery crash – her late husband died on the 98th floor of the south tower. Would you add such a twist to a fictional story? A woman was allegedly beheaded by her TV exec husband. A chimpanzee tore the face off the friend of its owner. Bizarre twists, tragic stories. McKee was hardly the first to note that life is stranger than fiction.

The chimp story did remind me of elements for the novel I’m working on now. Keeping exotic pets is very dangerous and we have developed a naive hubris about them. They are not just like us. There’s some exotic pet-keeping in my book and I need to address the danger. The book’s tone is darkly comic. If you’re writing something lighter, then you have to pull back in some way from the danger or explicit violence – either not showing it or showing it in an absurd way. However, that doesn’t mean that the danger is not present.