The Minimum is Not Enough

15 years.

That’s what Cory Batey was sentenced to for aggravated rape. The minimum sentence.

DNA evidence, witness testimony, video surveillance that the men took themselves, an impassioned and difficult-to-read plea for the maximum sentence from the survivor herself.

And he was still given the minimum sentence.

The minimum is not enough.

It’s not enough for the incomparably brave survivor who has had to go through trial after trial after mistrial, to stand and give her testimony over and over, to be re-traumatized over and over.

It’s not enough for survivors watching and being triggered and wishing they could get justice but continue being stripped of faith in the system.

It’s not enough punishment for someone who takes what he wants, what he believes he deserves. It’s not enough punishment for someone who sees not a person but a body to do what he wants with.

It’s not enough for survivors who will never remember what happened to them, or for survivors who vividly remember what happened.

It’s not enough to combat a societal belief that alcohol consumption is a reasonable defense.

And it’s not enough for me. As a survivor who has a year and a half left to report per Tennessee’s statute of limitations, this makes me even more disappointed and hesitant to even consider reporting. My therapist, my husband and I have talked about my taking that step as a means for gaining some semblance of physical closure. For multiple reasons, I don’t know if it’s a path I’ll take. But the many recent instances of minimum sentences being handed down makes me feel even less confident in our justice system.

His pastor, childhood friends, and more testify that he’s a good person. I hate to break it to you, but the good people in your lives can be rapists, too. They can be fathers, husbands, uncles, brothers, preachers, friends, neighbors, dog walkers, talented football players and swimmers, classical pianists. It’s time to let go of the notion that rape is just a mistake that a good person makes, to look at the crime and not the “goodness” of the rapist. Rape is intolerable. Period.

Judge Monte Watkins says, “All of the defendants in this case basically have life sentences.” This is infuriating, for so many reasons. There is nothing comparable about the life sentence the survivor is bound to and what these four men will have to live with.

The victim, as is unnervingly common, has had to endure entirely too much interrogation about what she was wearing, how much she’d had to drink, the circumstances that led her to be in the position she was in. This baffles me. Rape is a crime, plain and simple. We don’t take this line of questioning with victims of armed robbery. You don’t ask a victim of that crime, “Well, what were you wearing? Did you have on a bra? Were you tempting him?” No. It’s unacceptable.

It’s not enough. It just isn’t. And it makes me angry.

I acknowledge that this is part of a larger conversation. And the conversation is changing, evolving, and I’m glad of that.

But we have to begin talking about it above a whisper.

We must begin to see consistency in the way legal systems handle sexual assault before they can be trusted.

The reality is that many people – myself included – did not and probably will not ever report what happened to them for so many reasons. But one of the growing reasons is because of the inconsistencies we see in the way sexual assault cases are handled in the public eye. It’s a deterrent.

6 months for one case, 15 years for another, both the minimum sentences? Preferential treatment given to talented athletes? Guilty verdicts and a mistrial and more trials and on and on? Victims being questioned at length about what they were wearing, how much they’d had to drink, why they didn’t say no?

There is no excuse.

We must do better.

We must continue the conversation.

We must acknowledge that this isn’t enough.

And, while we may not see “enough” in our lifetimes, we can teach our children about consent. We can make sure the voices of advocacy are not silenced. We can make sure survivors are believed and empowered.

Perhaps my blunt tone makes you uncomfortable.

Honestly? I’m glad if it does.

Be uncomfortable.

It means you’re thinking about it.

Love,

M.


PS:

I know this post sounds angry. It’s because I am angry. But I’m also a myriad of other emotions: sad for myself and for fellow survivors, hopeful about the continuing conversation surrounding sexual assault, confused about where to go from here.

And my opinion may not align with yours. 15 years is a long time for someone to spend in jail. It’s not about the length of the sentence for me, but the precedent the justice system sets when it continues handing down minimum sentences.

But what’s most important, and what I want to remind you of, no matter your trauma, is this…

You are not alone. Ever.

Need help? Here are some online resources for survivors of sexual violence:

RAINN, NSVRC, Nashville Sexual Assault Center, TN Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence, It’s On Us, LoveIsRespect.org

And here’s a feel-good Tumblr I found, courtesy of the NSVRC – it’s got practical tips on anxiety reduction, silly GIFs, and simple uplifting content: Feel Better. It’s the best.

Love (again and always),

M.

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