Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Victims Deserve More Attention Than The Guilty

A seventeen-year-old American girl has tweeted the name of two teenage boys she is accusing of rape. The boys posted photos of the crime on the internet.

The girl and her parents were enraged about the crime and the fact the boys got a very lenient plea deal, and zero genuine follow through punishment.

The girl had the right of all citizens to supposed free speech in America to tell her girlfriends and the general public because these boys were their friends, too.

Yet she might be punished. Why?

This young lady was, by law, supposed to keep quiet in perpetuity, not tell anyone about the crime publicly to protect the reputation of the boys, and by violating a court order of silence risks spending one-hundred-eighty (180) days in jail.

The case is to be decided still, but more than 112,000 people (including me) have signed a website in an online protest at Change.org.

Some laws on the books are bad laws. They just are. They're not just and fair. The reason? Often, some bad ones have been pushed by elected officials to advance business interests (i.e. make more money). It used to be that victims of crimes like this had an added burden; they had to file civil lawsuits to get information out into the public, but social media has turned that on its head and for that I'm grateful.

*Good*  :-)

This law punishing whistle-blowers is a bad law. It should be changed. 

Often those murdered are the only ones who know who murdered them. To be sure, sometimes people are murdered by strangers. Sometimes they're raped by strangers, too, but often women know the identity of their rapists. There is no mystery.

Certainly, the guilty have the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. But in this case, there was no doubt about the identities of the guilty. None. The boys were known to the victim.

 This young woman had independent knowledge of the crime. She wanted to alert her girlfriends to the act, and let them know immediately for their own protection. She was doing an act of kindness to her girlfriends by telling them to avoid these boys, who were out and about on the streets, on the internet or on their telephones. 

Yet this young lady by law in a juvenile court might still be the one to have to pay for blowing the whistle to her friends by going to jail in cases such as this. She believed the boys' punishment was too lenient since it was a plea deal and wanted to take revenge in her own hands.

I want to know how punishing the victim more than the criminal makes any legal sense in America today to anyone except the accused boys and their families? Why care about them? The boys did something wrong, hypothetically and probably really did, unless she was lying, a highly unlikely outside possibility.

If the boys assumed they wouldn't be caught and punished, this woman is proving them wrong through her use of social media. I support her, unless she's lying. But I doubt she is, as a young woman has her reputation to lose and nothing to gain by doing this except a good feeling of revenge. The court was remiss in providing true and appropriate justice in a measured, thoughtful, adult manner.

The boys should have been punished in a way that suits the victim and the crime. This girl will always remember and have to live with what they did to her. All the future girlfriends of these boys, and their peers, should be aware of what the boys did and read of the illegal acts they committed. The facts should be available on every internet dating site.

 So why the heck wasn't the court system backing the victim over the accused? It seems the victim often has to pay more expenses than the accused in America, and this decision by the judge was all wrong. To prosecute a victim reporting a crime sends the message that it's wrong to talk about crime in general. The juvenile court judges it's unethical for a victim to talk about a crime that's happened...forever. Isn't that a violation of free speech?

In the same vein, I liked to hear Anderson Cooper bravely asserting on CNN last night that he wouldn't repeat the name of the Colorado movie theater killer, because he said we all know it, and we do. He brought stories of the victims to light to keep the story going, and for that I'm grateful.

America needs to support victims of crimes, too, and not assume support has been given. Otherwise, horrible stories will get supplanted by another fresh news-story-of-the-day, and there will not be sufficient follow-up to help victims, or punish juveniles who believe they will get away with murder and rape. Justice has to be shown to be done, as I've said before.

UPDATE:

Huffington Post reported:

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

As for the "media law specialist" perhaps someone else can use the information in the future. I hope so, but
1) it's too late in this case
2) why wasn't she advised of this possibility already?
3) how much would it have cost to get such specialized advice? No one is born knowing this!

I think that in the past, this sort of case was not reported, swept under a rug, and that social media is changing the course of justice for the better. Most rape victims prefer to retain their privacy, and this one individual is being extremely brave to publicize the issue. Let's applaud her for that.

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