Somewhere out there is a young woman who was unfortunate enough to have a few drinks and go for a walk by the train tracks one night with Thaddeus Jay Sonne. The two were bar-hopping with friends, had a few drinks (or, more likely, a few too many), and the next thing you know, the police are on the scene of this girl kicking and crying, saying, “No, no, stop!” and Sonne continuing to have sex with her. Sonne was arrested, but the woman was unwilling or unable to state unequivocally if she was raped. She said she wasn’t, but then said she was “uncertain” about pressing charges, and like so many women who are date-raped, or raped by someone they know, her feelings of confusion, guilt and shame likely outweighed her desire for justice.
Sonne was acquitted of the rape charge, after an astounding claim from his attorney that he was too drunk to understand what “no” means, and released on the spot. Free as a bird, and armed with a great defense should he ever find himself in the mood when the woman he’s with isn’t: “I was too drunk to understand what ‘no’ means.” And besides, as he stated on tape, sometimes “no” doesn’t mean “no,” it’s just a dare — she could have fought him off if she really wanted to.
In other words, that kicking, crying woman he had sex with was at fault. She didn’t really mean “no,” and she just didn’t kick hard enough or cry pathetically enough. And besides, she was drunk and therefore had it coming.
And then there’s the friends.
The two had friends in common who certainly leapt to Sonne’s defense, and urged the woman not to press charges: “Come on, we were all drinking, shit happens, let it go… you don’t want him to go to jail for years just because of one night, do you? Didn’t you say you liked him, well, what did you expect.” Maybe even threats from his friends: “If you send him to prison, I’m gonna (insert your favorite threat here).”
One can only imagine what was said, but one thing was for sure – the woman knew that if she pressed charges, she’d have to relive and retell what happened to her, while an attorney shamed and belittled her, and painted her as nothing but a drunken whore. Surely, she decided the ordeal of facing it all over again seemed worse than just moving on. She decided to let the justice system go on without her and see where the chips fall.
Well, they all fell on Sonne’s side. He got a big thumbs up from the legal system. He’s free to go forth and take tipsy girls for walks all he wants.
So, where does that leave the victim? What might she be thinking, knowing that in the eyes of the law, Sonne did no wrong. It must, therefore, mean… that she was at fault?
If he’s not in the wrong, then… I ???
My dear girl, whoever you are, beyond what happened to you that night, the legal system has raped your mind. It shoved ideas and perceptions into your brain against your will, and there they’ll fester and grow, and if you don’t face those dragons now, they will subconsciously and consciously alter your self-esteen and life choices. You’ll second-guess yourself, because clearly you don’t know what’s what. You’ll question your own sanity and judgement and perception, because on some level, you know what happened to you and yet the legal system said it didn’t. You’ll start wondering if maybe they’re right. There was something you did, or didn’t do, that caused what happened. And I’ll bet you’re already wondering if maybe you are the bad guy, because this poor, innocent boy was dragged through this whole ordeal, and if he’s innocent, that means… you’re guilty?
Is your brain in a pretzel right now? Wondering if down is up and up is down, and second-guessing your ability to choose friends or make wise choices, and replaying the tape over and over to figure out where you made the exact mistake? Are you feeling dirty and “less than”? Full of shame and self-loathing? Wondering who you can trust and who you can’t, because clearly your judgment is faulty?
You’re having these thoughts not because there’s anything wrong or bad or faulty about you, you’re having them because the legal system didn’t validate you. Replace your thoughts of uncertainty and self-loathing with this single mantra: The legal system failed me. Above all, you must forgive yourself for what happened. You did NOT cause it. Sadly, you’ve been taught a hard life lesson at a tender age: Life is not always fair. And it doesn’t play nice.
Turn your self-doubt, shame and guilt into anger. Anger is empowering. Use that power to protect yourself in the future. For you, and all young women out there: Be your own protectors. Don’t allow yourself to get so intoxicated that you aren’t in control of yourself or able to make good decisions. Don’t go anywhere alone with a man until you know him well. Learn self-defense. Learn to fight, and should you ever find yourself in a similar situation again, bite, claw and gouge like a tiger. Punch, elbow and kick to break bones. Let there be no confusion about your desire: to inflict as much injury as possible to escape. Yes, leave a mark. Leave many. They’ll make great evidence when you press charges.