The Victimization of Victims: How the Justice System Fails Savannah Dietrich and Other Women

Written by NY Press on . Posted in Sex & Relationships.


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By Rebecca Hoffman

Hating on victims seems to be a popular trend these days. Because, after all, she was dressing for it, asking for it, or should’ve just kept her mouth shut. The last one seems to be especially true for, 17-year-old, Savannah Dietrich who was facing potential jail time for tweeting the names of her attackers.

Savannah’s attackers were found guilty, but let off with a plea bargain. What was worse was that Savannah was forbidden from even revealing her attackers or what they’d done. Now, almost a year after the incident, Savannah was closer to doing jail time for speaking out about what happened to her than her attackers were for committing said attack. Though Savannah will not be sent to jail the entire trial raises a lot of questions about how the judicial system treats its victims.

With how victims have been treated lately Savannah should be happy nobody is blaming her for the attack, but trying to keep her quiet about the ordeal hardly seems like a solidified victory. An attorney for one of the attackers cautioned that exposing the boys’ identities could create problems for them in the future. Well, there is a saying for that: if you can’t do the time, then don’t do the crime. Convicted sex offenders are supposed to be publicly registered so neighbors can protect themselves as they see fit. The boys that attacked Savannah were found guilty, so why is protecting their identities so important?

It’s true that everyone makes mistakes and people do change, but it’s important that everybody takes responsibility for their actions too, and that doesn’t mean only in front of a judge. Attacks have permanent and life-changing effects on the victims. It seems only fair that attackers should have to carry some of this burden. The first step in this process is to stop blaming and restricting victims and to focus on punishing attackers.

Not many things are black and white anymore, but you would think that sexual assault would fall into the just plain wrong category. There are people who do take advantage of the system whether that’s through false accusations or trivial lawsuits, but the majority of cases are still real.

It takes courage to come forward and report a crime and face an attacker in court, especially when it comes to sexual assault crimes. These types of crimes are traumatizing and often embarrassing for the victim, and society doesn’t make it any easier with all the victim blaming. According to RAINN, the Rape Abuse Incest National Network, 54% of rape and sexual assault crimes aren’t even reported and it’s not hard to see why. What Savannah did took courage and should be seen as a positive example to victims everywhere. The fact that she was even threatened with jail time for speaking out against her attackers sends the wrong message.

Slut walks and petitions are a good place to start when standing up for sexual assault victims, but maybe it be more productive to shift the focus from supporting the victims to shaming the attackers. Instead of shaming victims into silence we should be shaming the attackers from doing the crimes in the first place, not granting them anonymity from their actions.

Society, as a whole, teaches potential victims: be safe, use common sense, don’t go out alone, etc. As a result, it’s not hard to see why victims blame themselves for crimes done to them. Victims think they were attacked because they weren’t smart about their actions, but that’s not the case. They were attacked because someone else decided to attack them. If half the publicity victims got was put on shaming the attackers then maybe society could start to teach the more obvious lesson: don’t attack, instead of don’t be attacked.

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