Sunday, July 22, 2012

Silence In The Court! (And Everywhere Else)!

There are many things that make me cringe, many issues that I wonder how are we even debating something that should be an obvious human right, as in, a right for ALL humans.  But one thing I don't understand and won't remain silent about is the systematic oppression of women that continues to happen in this "land of the free."  It is discussed, in the news and elsewhere, the atrocities women face in other countries; violent, physically altering, systematic abuse, violence, and control.  While yes, these acts are horrendous beyond words and I could write many pieces--and in fact did write a paper about female circumcision for an anthropology class I took years ago--right now, what brought this blog post to into existence is this article from The Huffington Post: Savannah Dietrich, 17-Year-Old Sexual Assault Victim, Faces Charge For Naming Attackers.

A 17 year old girl is brave enough to come forward about what happened to her and because the boys got a slap on the wrist, she tweeted their names--don't women want to know if there is a creep in their midst? don't parent's want to know their daughters are not spending time with boys who think this kind of behavior is acceptable?--and now the lawyer for the perpetrators of the crime is trying to silence her.

Dietrich's attorneys want her contempt hearing open to the media, arguing she has a First Amendment right to speak about her case and to a public hearing.

The boys' attorneys, however, have asked to keep the hearing closed.

The contempt charge carries a possible sentence of 180 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The boys pleaded guilty on June 26 to first-degree sexual abuse and misdemeanor voyeurism. Dietrich says she was unaware of a plea agreement until just before it was announced in court.

She could not say what the proposed punishment was because of the court order, but said she feels like it was a slap on the wrist.

The teens are to be sentenced next month, and the judge could reject or modify the terms of the proposed agreement.
When Judge Dee McDonald admonished everyone at the hearing not to speak about what happened in court or about the crime, Dietrich said she cried.

"They got off very easy ... and they tell me to be quiet, just silencing me at the end," she said.

Afterwards Dietrich tweeted, "They said I can't talk about it or I'll be locked up. ....Protect rapist is more important than getting justice for the victim in Louisville."

David Marburger, an Ohio media law specialist, said Dietrich should have tried to get the courts to vacate the gag order rather than simply violating it.

But Gregg Leslie, interim executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said Dietrich should "not be legally barred from talking about what happened to her. That's a wide-ranging restraint on speech."

After everything Dietrich has been through, and the courage it takes to come forward with this information, especially having to go to school wondering who saw the pictures (isn't high school hard enough?), being ordered to silence is another way for the system to keep women and girls oppressed.  Why are we so adamant about protecting these boys, who took advantage of this girl when she was vulnerable? Because they are 17? The difference between 17 and 18 is, wait, oh that's right, nothing in terms of knowing whether or not this behavior is acceptable or appropriate.  Anyone who knows how to treat another human being with dignity and respect knows very early on.  Anyone who believes behavior like this is acceptable and is not held accountable for their actions, will only believe that they did nothing wrong, and that they can do it again.  Who knows, maybe next time if the girl isn't passed out, he'll think it's ok to hit her to get what he wants, or worse.

Dietrich said she just needed to stand up for herself. "I'm at the point that if I have to go to jail for my rights, I will do it."

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