Friday, October 16, 2009

Justice for Victims of Sexual Violence: Feel Good Fridays

Too many times in this world, survivors of sexual violence receive no justice.

I could write a super long and depressing list of reports, statistics and case upon case where survivors of sexual violence have received no legal redress or apology for the violence inflicted on them. So it's refreshing to hear of a few cases of sexual violence where the victims' needs were not entirely pushed aside or dismissed.

Of course, the effects of sexual violence cannot be healed simply by financial compensation or jail time for the offender, and I don't mean to suggest that by the following news articles. What I do mean to suggest, however, is that the following two bits of news set an important precedent for future women who are the victims of sexual violence. These two items, one a sweeping legal change and the second an act of extraordinary kindness, send a clear message that women are valued and that survivors of sexual violence deserve justice and healing. We still have a long way to go, but these two stories make me a little bit more hopeful:

1. U.S. Senator Al Franken proposed an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill which would withhold defense contractors like Halliburton/KBR from receiving government contracts if they continue to restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault and discrimination charges to court. The amendment passed by a vote of 68 to 30.

This legal change was prompted by the story of Jamie Leigh Jones, who was gang-raped in 2005 at Halliburton/KBR facilities in Bagdad, while she was working. Jones was prevented from bringing charges in court against KBR because her employment contract stipulated that sexual assault allegations would only be heard in private arbitration. But no longer.

Jones said: "It means the world to me. It means that every tear shed to go public and repeat my story over and over again to make a difference for other women was worth it."

2. Lloyd Gardner, 22, of Ottery St Mary, England, contacted police in 2006 after seeing CCTV footage of a man wanted in connection with a rape in Exeter. He provided the police with the viable link that they needed to arrest Jakub Tomczak, who is now serving two consecutive life terms in Poland. Gardner, who is a waiter, was awarded 10,000 pounds (16,800 dollars Canadian) for assisting the police.

The victim of the 2006 rape was a 48 year old woman who suffered a skull fracture and brain damage in the attack. Her injuries were so severe she was left with no memory of what had happened and now uses a wheelchair.

Gardner, instead of keeping the money for himself, gave the funds to the woman, and said that he hoped it would help her to rebuild her life. "It was a difficult decision to make," said Gardner, "Because it is a lot of money and it would have been very helpful. But I didn't feel like a deserved it at all."

One one hand, it is sad that an act of kindness is international news. On the other hand, Lloyd Gardner is helping to restore my faith in humanity.

Peace and positivity,

Steph :)

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