It was many years ago, not quite ten but close. They told me when I signed in at the courthouse that the average trial lasted two and a half days, but most people didn't even get picked.
Apparently I'm not most people, my trial wasn't average.
I sat and watched as the lawyers picked their exclusions. There was no obvious reason behind the choices made by the prosecution but there was a clear pattern with the defense. No women between eighteen and thirty five years old were allowed on the jury.
Yeah, it was a rape trial.
The trial began with two days of a young woman telling us the worst story she's ever told. It was painful to listen to, I felt like I was invading her privacy. This was only made worse by the fact that I was taking notes.
The first question she was asked was "what were you wearing?" The second was "how much did you have to drink?"
She was going to a nightclub with friends, what do you think the answers were?
What would you have answered if you were going out for a night of fun?
What does it matter?
When she told us how much she had to drink the prosecution poured an equal amount of water into a familiar red solo cup and we passed it throughout the jury so we could all understand, in a tangible way, how much vodka this tiny woman had consumed.
In case you missed it the first time, it was the prosecution who did this. The person responsible for bringing this woman's attackers to justice needed to make sure that we all understood how drunk she was. There was a reason for this, she had been too drunk to consent to having sex, and the prosecutor wanted us to understand that. Consent simply wasn't possible.
However there's problem with that, it was irrelevant. She never agreed to have sex. In fact she explicitly said she didn't want to. No, don't, stop were all things she said. But it turns out that's not good enough case. A woman incapable of consenting is a better argument than a woman who openly says no.
Think about that for a second, and what that says about how our courts regard women who have been sexually assaulted. A woman without agency is a more reliable argument than a woman who tries to stand up for herself.
While I was appalled with the prosecutor, in the end I have to begrudgingly admit that it was probably necessary. After discussing this case with eleven other jury members, for two and a half weeks, I'm confident in saying the problem we face is not just with the courts. People just don't want to send a young man to jail. Truthfully I find that admirable, but only in an abstract way. In the practical world we have to deal with people who assault others.
We heard his defense and the physical evidence obliterated it. But there were still people who just didn't want to send him to jail. Many of these people I would describe as a good, honest and decent in every way except one. They weren’t willing to send a rapist to prison when the case was irrefutable. They had no argument, they couldn't show any doubt, let alone a reasonable one. But still they argued
We live in a world where beautiful young women sell us just about anything. And it works. But when a beautiful young woman tries to stand up for her rights, for her autonomy, we're not so sure anymore. We'll believe a woman paid to shill for a car company, or better insurance rates, but when she's stripped of her dignity and fighting for justice suddenly we we don't trust her.
Think about that for a second.
In a world where one out of five women is sexually assaulted, how do we fix that when we simply don't believe the victims?
I wish I knew the answer.