Morrison , ruled this section of the VAWA unconstitutional, leaving survivors to rely on state law. The Meaning Of Justice When we talk about strengthening responses to sexual violence, we need to reflect on what we mean when we talk about justice, who that justice is for, and be sure that our responses account for all survivors. It has come to serve as a cultural fable about the injustice of our justice system, a system that protects the powerful when they have done wrong. But we cannot pretend that the bias in our justice system lives in judges alone, or that it only emerges at the point of sentencing. We can also look to transformative justice and community accountability models. Money can mean the ability to pay hospital bills, access mental health care, move, or leave an abusive relationship. In reinforcing the toxic masculinities that exist outside, prisons simply strengthen a culture that excuses and allows for sexual violence. In a study of white male and female mock jurors in a rape trial, for instance, the mock jurors were found to give black defendants significantly harsher penalties than white defendants. With room for racial bias in prosecution and conviction, mandatory minimum sentencing statutes cannot adequately address systemic bias in the criminal legal system.
Restorative justice processes work to develop ways to repair or address harm done, with the ultimate goal of reintegrating the perpetrator into the community; transformative justice takes this a step further, centering an intersectional analysis and calling for a transformation of oppressive systems. He caused real harm, and his privilege protected him from the consequences faced by others who have caused similar harm. But we cannot allow our anger to justify reinforcing a system that fails to provide justice. But we cannot pretend that the bias in our justice system lives in judges alone, or that it only emerges at the point of sentencing. Prisons perpetuate a culture of toxic hyper-masculinity and gendered violence, and we cannot hope to prevent sexual assault or find meaningful justice for survivors while such a culture persists. Morrison , ruled this section of the VAWA unconstitutional, leaving survivors to rely on state law. Six months, when men of color convicted of similar crimes are sentenced to much more. Toxic masculinity is everywhere in our culture, and it is by no means a construction unique to or originating from prisons, but prison can serve to incubate and intensify this construction, reinforcing rape culture in the process. Under mandatory minimum sentencing statutes, juries would not have the ability to impose sentences, but this research indicates a pattern of significant racial bias in jury decision-making. Communities can work together to develop responses to abusive behavior by its members, and to transform their own social dynamics. This story is familiar by now. These narratives, and the conservative reforms they inspire, position rape as rare, and fail to account for the most common forms of gender-based violence — in which the perpetrator is an acquaintance, a family member, a partner, or a friend. The civil protections afforded to students by Title IX and many workers by Title VII allow for important recourse that the criminal legal system cannot provide — suspension, expulsion, changes in scheduling or housing, and more. This approach fails to address the ways in which the state has been and continues to be a perpetrator of violence in many communities. Civil law can provide valuable alternatives to the criminal legal system for survivors. Once a defendant is brought to trial, the decision by a judge or jury to convict provides another point in the process at which bias may manifest. The Supreme Court, in the case U. It seems like a way to demand that the justice system take rape seriously, that it will ensure consistency in a system that too often allows bias and privilege to tilt results in favor of the powerful and privileged. Brock Turner assaulted an unconscious woman. Of course this makes us angry. When survivors of gender-based violence know their assailants, as most do, increased penalties may deter reporting, since mandatory minimum sentencing laws often lead to sentencing much harsher than believed appropriate by those involved. In instances of sexual violence, this seems to be particularly true when the victim is white. Turner, for example, was held responsible by his community when he was banned from USA Swimming for life. In a study of white male and female mock jurors in a rape trial, for instance, the mock jurors were found to give black defendants significantly harsher penalties than white defendants. As a society, we can do more to strengthen and defend these protections. This is a dangerous cycle. We can also look to transformative justice and community accountability models.
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