“Due Process” and How it Really Works for Victims

NOTE: TRIGGER WARNING – SEXUAL VIOLENCE

Harvey Weinstein. That name alone brings to mind power. Movies. Wealth. Fame. These days, it also brings to mind rape. Sexual assault. His name will forever be linked to the latter, no matter what happens with his current trial or with him after it’s over. For some, they want him to rot in hell. Or prison -it could potentially be the same thing for him. For others, they feel he’s been framed, because surely it was consensual – the women looking for fame and power they didn’t have. Everyone presuming that “due process” would make sure the right thing is done. However, as Megan Garber of The Atlantic put it in this article (https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2020/02/the-weinstein-trial-and-the-ugly-realities-of-due-process/606262/), “This is due process wielded as a weapon.”. That weaponization of due process is something I am intimately familiar with, as are so many of us who have been victims of sexual assault while serving in the Armed Forces.

I was 24 years old, and had recently re-upped. I had every intention of continuing my service – I liked my job, was living in a place I enjoyed, and had made some amazing friends. I was due to get together with a few people I had been stationed with previously, so we went out to dinner. Unfortunately, it ended up being a smaller group than expected, and it was just the two of us that decided to go out for some drinks and catch up. I knew this guy, had been stationed with him for a couple of years and liked him well enough, though that’s as far as it ever went. We drank, and since I didn’t want to drive home after drinking, he offered to let me crash in his hotel room for the night (he was in town briefly, hence the catch-up). I honestly thought nothing of it, as often being one of the few females in the group, I was accustomed to crashing at others’ places – and nothing had ever happened.

The assault took place shortly after we got into the hotel room. It didn’t matter how many times I said no, he insisted the answer was yes. I had nowhere to go, I was reasonably new in town after being transferred, and had no one to call. And, honestly, there was some part of myself that simply could not accept that this was happening. I felt sort of…separated…from myself – the part experiencing and talking, and the part that was in shock. Eventually, he had my pants off – and the only thing that made him stop was when I told him that if he was going to rape me, he may as well go all the way and do it anal so he’d feel better. I don’t know why that pushed his buttons, but…it did. I was finally able to leave the room, and I drove home, still drunk. I spent the entire drive sobbing, half wishing I would get pulled over by the police so I could tell them what happened, and half terrified that I would get pulled over because I didn’t know if anyone would believe me.

Once I got home, he called. He apologized – profusely. Told me that he knew what he did was wrong, and he would support me if I reported him. That he had never done such a thing, and that he understood why I was so upset. I look back, and know that he was probably trying to manipulate me, but…it seemed in earnest to me at the time. I told him I would think, that I couldn’t think clearly. See, I was torn between the “He did this to me” and “I thought he was my friend” – as so many so-called “date rape” victims are. When I told a friend, she immediately had me come over, and – quite reasonably – told me that friends don’t rape friends. Sounds weird, but it’s not how my brain was thinking at the time. So – I reported it. And here is where the due process kicks in.

I went to a hospital, and had a rape kit done. Anyone who says those things are ok is LYING. It’s like being raped twice. It is invasive, scary, miserable, and occasionally painful. Now, the doctor and the nurses were kind and tried to be as gentle as possible. But it’s still a horrible, sad, cold and sterile process. I was asked so, so many questions – many of them repeats. Occasionally while my legs were up in stirrups. At some point after this process, the military took over, and it got worse for me.

I was removed from my job “because of the stress and trauma”. I was shunted to another department, not doing anything remotely related to what I loved. I was treated with kid gloves by people who didn’t know me and were afraid to GET to know me. I was given a lawyer who had never tried a military case before. Meanwhile, he got a Naval lawyer who had years of experience and was able to keep his job. Mind you – he was a medical professional, accused of assault, and he kept his job. I lost a lot of people who I had considered friends – they either sided with their fellow male – though many hadn’t known him any longer than I had – or were too afraid to be seen as a “traitor”. And yes, that term was used. I was alone, new to my job and the area, with few people I knew local, and in a terrible depression.

Eventually, the court martial came up. I was asked questions about my sex life prior, my drinking history, my mental state. I was asked so many invasive questions, things I wouldn’t talk about with many friends, let alone in a room in front of strangers, my rapist, and my mother. It was like the rape kit all over again. And, even with all that had happened and his promises to tell the truth and support my report – he got off. The Old Boys network wins again. Worse was when I happened to be in an elevator with one of the jurists – and was told, quietly, that they believed me and still nothing could be done.

This, folks, is “due process”. That same “due process” that everyone thinks will make sure the guilty are convicted and the innocent proven so. The same “due process” that left me reeling, alone, and giving up on my military career. The same “due process” that had me medically discharged, with PTSD and depression – while he continued in his job as a medical professional until he retired. I don’t have a lot of faith in due process, particularly when there is a well-established trend towards believing the White Male.

Harvey Weinstein has a well-established pattern of sexual assault. He has done it to a LOT of women (allegedly 😉 ). Several reporters from different news outlets have followed up on this story, and many brave women have come forward. And still – his lawyer, a white woman (natch), says that she’s never been assaulted because she “would never put (herself) in that position”. Charges have been dropped before. His lawyers will work to destroy every witness and victim they can – regardless of the repercussions to those women afterwards. Essentially – he has a lot of money that he can fling towards making this all go away. That, folks, is “Due Process” for people like him – and for the victims who have accused him. And this is why those who say #MeToo can only be detrimental to men just show their ignorance, their privilege, and their arrogance. Because men already have all the cards – and one of those cards is labeled “Due Process”.

Author: stillmorewords

Small-town girl, living in a big city. Former Coastie, married with 2 kids. Inveterate reader of all genres, though non-fiction and YA currently rule. Indie bookstore employee, small business owner, tea drinker.

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