#TrueJustice NOT Revenge
I’ve told my story many times — I was sexually abused at the age of 7 years old, I reported it to my oldest brother, who then told a family member, who told my mother. The case was investigated and heard in Queens Family Court, as my perpetrator at the time was under the age of 18 years old.
It was not until several years later that I asked my mother, “Whatever happened to him, did he go away to jail, was he punished for what he did to me?” I clearly remember the look on my mother’s face as tears filled her eyes in a soft voice said “No”. She went on to say, “I wanted him to receive the help that he needed so that he would not touch another little girl” At that time I could not understand the power within her decision.
For over decade I witnessed over 100 testimonies of children who were sexually abused and have spoken to numerous survivors of sexual assault. I found the thread that connects the children to the adults is the need for justice. But, what kind of justice my I ask? Is it the need for punitive justice — humiliation , exclusion from communities, extensive probation sentencing and in some cases, prison sentences? More often then none survivors can attest that it rarely works out in their favor to being about validation, acknowledgment and closure. In addition, it cannot guarantee that those who abuse, will not abuse again. Sexual injustice, child sexual abuse, harassment to rap and assault, are deeply ingrained in our culture, involving children and adults from all walks of life. We cannot jail, condemn, cast judgment, fear, or isolate the perpetrators of these type of offenses. This is a crisis that is plaguing humanity, and calls for a revamping of how institutions handle these cases. I offer the suggestion that prioritize both justice and healing, not one at the expense of the other.
When I was sexually abused I did not understand the consequences behind my disclosure toward my abuser. I just wanted the abuse to stop. However, my mother fully understood how her request to the judge could possibly change the outcome of this young boy’s life with the hopes of preventing another child from being violated. I’ve come to realize what my abuser needed was more than just a prison sentence, he needed a change in his behavior. He needed intervention, not just supervision from a correctional officers.
I admitted formally having a perpetrator punished for their crime is a valid option. However, we must seek another way that would foster an environment that promotes healing and redemption. As a society we have a reputation of dehumanizing people who sexual abuse children, who commit sexual assault or harassment, by calling them monsters, despicable creatures who deserve to die, not realizing that people who are human beings who’ve made very poor choices. They are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, faith leaders, teachers, and professionals. Such a dynamic makes it challenging to grapple with that often ends in an argument. My fear is that we won’t come to a consensus as a community, therefore conversation will stall, until we grow. Impatience continues to create a divide, meanwhile all we need is a new approach. A method that calls us to reimagine how we treat and bring justice toward perpetrators of child sexual abuse and sexual assault.
In 2016, Black Women’s Blueprint, an organization that advocates for black women and girls who are survivors of sexual violence, convened a Truth and Reconciliation Commission conceived by its members. The commission took place over four days allowing 15 survivors the platform to share their stories and be openly acknowledged by the community. It also fostered an environment that allowed individuals, whether harm-doers or those who enabled them to take responsibility and accountability for their actions. I believe, this is a great starting point. However the question at hand is how do we expanded this models to a larger scale? How do we create an alternative -justice model that is mandated throughout the judicial system in the U.S.? With the momentum behind the #MeToo movement, hopeful it will bring awareness around our broken injustice system, the fracture within humanity.