Your Honor, I object …By
Medford Mail Tribune
Just when it seemed we were starting to “get it” on child sexual abuse, along comes a court trial that reminds us just how far we have to go. Last week in Jackson County, Circuit Judge Tim Barnack allowed a 10-year-old child to be revictimized.
First, the girl was repeatedly characterized as precocious and attention-starved. I have two granddaughters and I would describe both of them as precocious and they definitely seek adult attention. “Watch this, papa.” “Will you play with me, papa?” It takes a pretty sick mind to view this normal child behavior as an opening for sexual advance, much less use it as a defense in a court of law.
This next part is so unbelievable as to defy reason. Judge Tim Barnack allowed the bed the girl has stated she was abused on to be brought into court, and she is told to stand beside it and show what happened to her.
WHAT? I really want someone to say this didn’t really happen in Medford, Ore. But it did. The judge, the prosecutor, the defense attorney and observers all sat and watched a 10-year-old girl, holding her doll, stand next to the mattress as the defense attorney re-enacted her abuse in open court. Then the defense attorney described the 10-year-old child’s overt trauma as an “act” and says she has never been traumatized by anything in this case. Somebody needs to check this man for a pulse! This is far worse than reality TV; at least they have censors.
Is this really the standard we want for dealing with accusations of child abuse? When a child gets the strength to come forward and report alleged sexual abuse should they have to suffer having their character attacked and be made to publicly re-enact the abuse? I sincerely hope not. The system failed this little girl. You and I failed this little girl.
In the last decade we have finally woken up to the extent of sexual abuse and exploitation of our children and are doing something about it. Now it’s time to bring our legal system in line with our values. If we consider it morally wrong for adults to sexually abuse children, then why would it be OK for our courts to do so?
It happened once, shame on Judge Barnack and his court. If we allow it to happen again, then shame on us. This is our community and our court system. It should reflect our values and morals. If we don’t want our children to be revictimized after reporting abuse, then we, you and I, need to speak up with our voice and vote to see that it doesn’t happen again. Our judges are elected. In theory they enforce our laws, but they also have discretion. Let’s elect judges that use that discretion wisely.
Our laws are made by the state Legislature and enforced by our attorney general. We can contact Sen. Alan Bates and Attorney General John Kroger to make sure this is not allowed in the future and ask them to make sure it isn’t.
With 20 percent of our children suffering sexual abuse, we know we have done a lousy job of protecting them. Now that we are beginning to understand that fact and the impact of abuse, let’s take the next step. Let’s open our ears and hearts to the suffering these child victims are enduring and do what we can to ease their pain and the difficulty of reporting the abuse.
I know we can do better. For the sake of our children we must do better.