Here at CCASA, we've been learning both the social and the judicial side of things surrounding sexual violence. During the past three weeks, our Youth4Change group has had the opportunity to visit the Calgary Court House to witness multiple cases on two separate days. On the first day, we attended two sentencings and a plea session, while the second day consisted of a incest sentencing. While each of the cases were associated with the same crime, the manner in which they were processed and the number of variables involved all changed each outcome. Either way, they all ended with me feeling sick to my stomach. So today it's all about "justice."
Since I moved to Calgary back in 2000, I never had the chance (or opportunity) to end up at the court house and dissect this seemingly mystic place where law and justice collide. I have to tell you, it was quite intimidating for the first couple of minutes but the glorified imagery quickly fades once you know what is happening in the room which loom over you. At first you feel like you're in a airport because of all the security and the TV screen which showed the "departure" times of each session. Once we discovered our room and level we took the magical glass elevators up to the court room. I have never felt so sad and curious in my entire life. It was exciting to be somewhere so new and unknown, but at the same time reality rushes back to you when you remember why you are there. Our attendance is to help support not only the survivor, but the fight against sexual assault in all forms.
I couldn't believe how intimidating the court room was... the silence, the air, the people. It all amounted into something that was cold, lonely, and harsh. It's a room where law is followed and where procedures and loyalty are the top priority. I found myself sitting quietly in the wood pews waiting silently. Suddenly, the side door to the court room opened and a man in a navy blue uniform walked in and took a seat. I felt anger, frustration, disappointment, and a rude case of a reality check. I sat there staring at this man and kept imagining what he had done. Once the judge entered the court room and the lawyers began their presentations I found myself unable to look away from this man's emotionless face. Hearing all of the charges against him made me sick to my stomach. Knowing that he sexually assaulted this woman then choked her, bit her and ultimately beat her to the point of unconsciousness pushed me to a level of frustration I have never felt before.
I could hear my heart pounding in my chest... the anger, bitterness, the pure disgust that I had for this man was instant and unforgettable. After hearing all of the references and statements, I kept looking at him wondering, "How is it you are playing the victim in this situation?" and "What made you think you had the right to do this?" My frustration and anger got the better of me. I knew my face was stuck in a frowning position, but I didn't care and I felt like someone had to be angry at him because no one else was in the court room (except the reporters).
45 minutes passed, and the lawyers keep repeating "In my respectful submission..." I knew then that this man would not be sentenced during this session and it just seemed ridiculous that the court accepted all of these excuses due to the "lack" of evidence and paper work. The court was adjourned until a later date to wait for the results.
We exited the court room and had a seat in the hallway. I felt confused, betrayed and simply pissed off. How could this guy be given rights and protection when he certainly didn't respect this woman he assaulted? We left the court house for a break and I eventually compressed my thoughts and took a deep breath to refocus. I told myself that this is the reason why I was trying to get the CCASA message out there, and why I have always felt that there was injustice in the world.
Later, I learned that the maximum sentence for sexual assault was 5 years; I couldn't believe that all of the talking and paper work would only amount to probably 3 years of incarceration. I keep wondering how it's considered justice when an offender has 3 years of jail and then walks free, but a survivor lives with the memories and has to deal with feelings of guilt, their emotions in general, and the pain of the assault for much longer. I don't see it!
Next post will be part 2 of the court system: Soccer coach vs. Child
Till Later KB