When Justice Fails

What do we say/do/how do we cope when the justice system fails?

I recently read a story that broke my heart. For the anonymity of this woman, I will simply say that she was a victim of sexual assault – she had the courage to call the police but the DA didn’t prosecute for lack of physical evidence. The crime was heinous, arguably a hate crime. And the DA did nothing.

But this is the fate of so many in our country. Recent estimates indicate that one in three women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. This is horrific. 

I can’t muster any other words.

When words fail me, I look elsewhere.

I recently stumbled upon a poem by Eve Ensler. And all I can say is, maybe we can start to find justice in alternative sources. The justice system is a system for victims of sexual assault in that it systematically fails. It isn’t victim centered, for a number of reasons that I won’t go into here.

When justice fails, we can remember that there is justice to be found in other ways.

First, a video:

The full poem by Eve:

THEN WE WERE JUMPING

In the dream he comes
And sits across from me
At something that looks like a table
But has a constellation of
stars painted on the top of it
He is wearing his old yellow
Sweater that he used to wear only in the house
And he looks uneasy
older than I remember
And sad
Really sad
I remember this sadness
I lived in this sadness
Like a fog,
Like a virus I gave my body to him
To make the sadness go away
He took my body to make the sadness less
And when that didn’t work
He made me as sad as him.

But here now at the table with the stars
And the falling galaxy that seems to
Come alive between us
I know surely that his sadness belongs to him
And for the first time
I don’t move
Away or towards
I don’t move at all
I feel strangely confident
I look up and realize
There is a vast circle
Of thousands maybe millions
Of people sitting around us
And we are in something like
A coliseum
and people are patient and quietly waiting
some women are knitting pot holders and others red flags
a few men are leaning forward in their seats
smoking cigarettes
some are wearing strange hats
almost like they are clowns
they are not the kind of people
my father would have talked to
and they know this
but they are not unkind
my father suddenly gets annoyed
angry the way he used to get really
angry impatient and he says with a mean face,
“What are you looking for, Evie?”
He seems so small so fragile
I know I am not meant to save him
And then this silence
descends
a jar of liquid
light
around us
holding us, containing us
and out of nowhere
this clot, this dirty bloody transparent clot
filled with sharp noises and scraps of cruelty
starts coming out of me
out of all the parts of my body
pouring out of me
gathering
into one huge clot
And it floats like a murky rain cloud
Hovering over my father’s head
like it is expecting something
and my father takes a beat
looks up
and then he just opens his mouth
so natural, so easy
and receives my river of
pain, he swallows it whole
and all the people start cheering
wildly cheering and singing
and dancing
I can’t take my eyes off him
My father becomes so full
his cheeks bulging and red
almost about to explode
not able to take much more
and then these red tears begin to
pour down my father’s cheeks
I’m a little scared – it looks like he’s crying blood.
But the people are still cheering
They are so encouraging
This goes on for a while
My father crying and crying blood red tears
And as I am looking because I won’t stop looking at him
My father suddenly becomes a boy
and he isn’t sad
he is dazzling and clever and playful
he takes me by the hand
and walks me out into the center
of the coliseum which is
now a field of wild high ticklish grass
blowing in an almost hysterical wind
and we just start jumping and jumping
crazy jumping
I can’t believe how high we are jumping
The earth is a trampoline and I am not afraid
to go higher and higher

When I wake up I think
Oh, this is it. This is justice.

Eve Ensler

July 2013

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