I try to avoid politics here but sometimes something happens that just rattles my chain too much to ignore, and this was one of those weeks. Montana. A judge. A rape. A suicide. A failure of the justice system? I don’t know, and I’ll leave that to the lawyers to hash out. I want to address the judge and his words. I remember my mother telling her grandson (who let his siblings speak for him) “Use your words.” Well, in this case the judge did and then regretted them. Sometimes, our words don’t taste so good coming back up.
The judge made the error in judgement of saying the victim was, “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold. Really? At what point is a rape victim ever in control? It is all about power, and this 14-year-old didn’t have it. Her teacher did. Then, he said people didn’t understand that it wasn’t “some violent, forcible, horrible rape…” Words. He spoke them and then when the backlash – totally understandable – hit, he retracted them. He professed they didn’t “represent” who he was. Maybe it’s the result of decades of hearing this excuse from politicians, but I’m calling foul. When we say something, it comes from us, and we mean it on some level. We OWN our words. We may deeply regret that, and we may wish to everything that’s holy that we could retract them, but we can’t. Once words are out there, the damage is done.
The damage is done for the family of this young victim and other rape victims. It’s done for potential rape victims who will fear a mentality that views rape as having levels or degrees of horror. Seriously? If a woman (or man) is not beaten and raped, it is somehow less of a crime? The judge with his words set a tone for his courtroom and for himself that he is now having to live with. Worse than that, women will have to live with it. Victims of this crime will have to live with it. A child can be raped quite easily without violence so by the judge’s standards, that rape is less horrible? No. I suspect he doesn’t believe that.
I’m a writer. I live by my words and sometimes, I die by them. So many times I’ve said the wrong thing at the wrong time and regretted it. We’re human. What we cannot do, what we must not do, is compound that crime by refusing to own our words. The judge said what he did because on some level he believed it. He was wrong. He knows it now. The smart thing would have been to say so. By refusing to, he merely made a horrid situation worse.
Have you ever regretted something you said?