Content Warning: This story mentions sexual abuse.
Earlier this month, Illinois Judge Robert Adrian overturned the conviction of 18-year-old Drew Clinton for raping a girl last summer at a graduation party.
The move comes after Clinton was originally convicted of felony sexual assault in October and faced a minimum of four years in prison. Judge Adrian has now overruled that, saying the Five months that he spent in prison is sufficient punishment.
It may seem logical that someone who commits a crime should serve the appropriate sentence in prison. After all, “freedom and justice for all” is part of our own oath of allegiance. Same flights punishable by three to seven years in prison. Unfortunately, rapists continually make headlines because they get off too easily, and Clinton is no different.
This unfair incident is a major sign of disrespect towards a large number of people. How could people, especially sexual assault survivors, trust our justice system after seeing this happen?
Advocates regularly work hard to make social and legal efforts to end gender-based violence. Universal programs such as safe passage and Title IX have been put in place to support survivors, particularly in their journey to justice.
Daisy Avila, a young political science student and president of the Women and Gender Advocacy Alliance, says cases like this create a major setback for advocates.
“It’s just a slap in the face to all the people who work so hard to support survivors and make them feel like their jobs don’t matter,” Avila said.
It’s just a slap in the face for all the people who work so hard to support survivors and make them feel like their jobs don’t matter.
— Marguerite Avila
Clinton’s victim was a 16-year-old girl at the time. Countless girls across America who have been in his shoes are watching this unfold alongside him. In fact, 82% of all survivors of sexual assault under the age of 18 are female. She was also present during the hearing, during which she was to see her attacker released by the court. There are no words to describe the level of trauma she, like many other girls, faced that day.
Only 310 out of 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to officials. That’s an incredibly low number, but not surprising given that survivors are bound to see abusers like Clinton become free men. The survivor herself told WGEM-TV, “He made me feel like I fought for nothing and put my word out there for no reason.”
Avila believes the court ruling sends the message that women’s voices don’t matter as much as men’s voices and their lives.
Judge Adrian even took to blaming other factors, such as the parents of those in attendance at the house party, underage drinking and nighttime swimming. This is a pure form of victim blaming, a tactic used to hold others accountable besides the abuser themselves.
“We see this tendency so often in court cases where the judge, usually a man, focuses on everything else except all the things the guy did wrong,” Avila said.
Drew Clinton was released far too easily for such a serious and impactful crime. His victim, like many other survivors, shouldn’t have to live the rest of his life knowing that his abuser is living a free life. This case undeniably speaks volumes to all kinds of citizens because it is essentially a loss for survivors of sexual abuse.