To obtain justice, at times we need to persevere

To obtain justice, at times we need to persevere

Shannon Keeler (right) holding up a loud placard with a friend that says “The Way I Dress Never Means Yes” (rape me). (Photo courtesy by AP).

Just because I move through a public space does not mean that my body is a public space.

— Anonymous rape victim

IT took seven long years but for rape victim Shannon Keeler the price was worth the wait as a new team of police and prosecutors for the arrest of the man she had accused of raping her when she was still studying at Gettysburg College.

In 2013, Keeler had pleaded for prosecutors to take up her college rape complaint to no avail since the little evidence she had submitted was not enough for the court to find merit in her charges against Ian Cleary, 28, of Saratoga, California.

Despite the seeming debacle, Keeler moved to Spain to finish her studies and there she won a national championship in lacrosse, earned a bachelor’s degree, and fell in love. But all the while, she gathered more evidence from the freshman year attack.

She passed on to police investigators the names of people who saw the upperclassman Cleary stalk her at the frat party in 2013, the phone number of the friend who saw him follow her home, and the name of the hospital where her coach took her for a rape kit.

And then, just last year, Cleary sent a message to Keeler from his Facebook account, saying, “So I raped you.”

Thus after verifying the account and after Keeler told her ordeal to The Associated Press, a new team of police and prosecutors obtained a warrant for Cleary’s arrest following the filing of charges of sexual assault. Police, though, have not yet located the suspect, admitting they aren’t sure where he is at present. So it is still not clear whether Keeler will ever see her case go to trial, pending Cleary’s apprehension.

While the victim was moved into tears by the result of her perseverance to pursue her complaint, which she had waited to prosper for over seven years, we are mindful that such a moment comes because Keeler went public with her story, which no survivor should have to do in order to obtain justice.

Keeler’s lawyer, Laura Dunn had expressed hope that her client’s case would inspire the authorities to be more responsive to sex assault victims.

Still, the only reason they achieved what seems to be futile is that Ian Cleary confessed his crime in writing.

The truth is that the criminal justice system—anywhere in the world—should care. It should put all its energy and resources towards prosecuting criminals like Ian Cleary and it’s on the system that most victims have had to wait long and have so much compelling evidence before action is taken.

Based on studies, only one in five sex assault victims report the crime to the police, and when they do, experts say, prosecutors often hesitate to take cases where victims had been drinking alcohol or were into drugs or else are familiar with the person they are accusing.

I recall a friend who had been raped by a foreigner whom she had given a place to stay in her own home after the American lost all his money while indulging himself with the proverbial hospitality in our country. The man was a military retiree and had spent his dollars in soliciting the sexual services of several Pinays whom he considered as ‘stupid’ because he believed that women should never sell their bodies for the simple reason that they needed money to survive.

My friend told me that she never thought of filing charges against the guy because it would only cause her shame—and the rape only happened in the month of December 2014, a year less than that of Shannon Keeler’s case.

Still, nothing happened with my friend’s unfortunate experience and I believe she would never receive justice for the sexual abuse she suffered. She has instead remained silent about the incident and has decided to move on and forget all about it. (ai/mtvn)

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