By Lavinia Masters
What is the true meaning of justice and how is it really defined? The dictionary states that justice is the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause or the administering of deserved punishment or reward. In regards to our justice system the courts like to display the symbol of “Lady Justice”, the Roman Goddess of justice, most often depicted with a set of scales typically suspended from her left hand, upon which she measures the strengths of a case's support and opposition. She is also often seen carrying a double-edged sword in her right hand, symbolizing the power of Reason and Justice, which may be wielded either for or against any party. Finally she is also shown wearing blindfolds which is done in order to indicate that justice is (or should be) meted out objectively, without fear or favor, regardless of identity, money, power, or weakness: blind justice and blind impartiality. But I ask you… is this always the case?
I recently listened to the news of Pro Football Hall of Famer, Lawrence Taylor being indicted by the grand jury in New York on the charges of third degree rape and patronizing a prostitute and I went numb. Then remembering back just a few months ago, in March I believe, there was another pro football player, Ben Roethlisberger, which was accused for the second time in less than a year of a sexual assault of a young lady in a night club but for some reason, that is still unclear to me, the DA dropped the charges due to insufficient evidence however at that time I was livid.
Being an advocate and survivor of sexual assault you have a tendency to want to see all rapists suffer for the crimes against innocent victims but there are times in this walk that you question your purpose and the fight. Although I have never been a fan of football or any other sport for that matter I have been intrigued to follow the behavior and the actions of some of these “star athletes” and the power that their money and fame gives them. Here we have two athletes brought up on the same charges just months apart and one gets indicted and faces up to 4 years in prison while the other walks away only with suspension and resumes his position and status as a star football player….hmmm…so I ask the question again…what is justice and how is it defined?
I wrestled with each case over and over again and my spirit was not only restless but my heart was in despair. You see I am one that thinks about the victim in these situations and all the pain and suffering that they have to endure as those that “have” or are of the “elite” are allowed to use and abuse them and still walk away with their pride and dignity because they are sorry that they got caught! Yet still in the comparing these two cases I could not rest.
At first I thought maybe because Lawrence or “L.T.” is an ex pro football player or a “has been” pro line backer according to today’s society while Ben or “Big Ben” is still playing and considered one of Americas greatest football quarterbacks; as the reason their cases were handled differently. Then there is the issue of Lawrence being caught in New York where they possibly punish athletes harsher for sex crimes versus the state of Georgia where Ben was accused. However maybe it was the whole idea that Lawrence smeared the image of his football career long ago when he was caught using and imprisoned for drugs charges because Ben was only accused of sexual assault before in Nevada but it never materialized. Wait! I got it… the young lady that Lawrence got involved with was underage and the young women that Ben was accused by were old enough to know what they were doing!
I hope as you are reading this you detect my sarcasm and frustration as I am disturbed that after all we do as advocates as far as speaking out against rape and abuse, changing and enforcing laws, lobbying legislation and supporting survivors all with blood, sweat and tears we are continuously let down by our “Lady Justice”. It seems that her scales that are meant to measure the strength of a case’s support and opposition is always off balance…her sword that is suppose to symbolize power of reason and justice must be hollow and made of aluminum because it is dull and has no power…and the blindfolds that cover her eyes to make justice blind or impartial regardless of identity, money, power, or weakness should be removed because maybe then she will be able to see true justice and just how unfair she has really been.
Just because I am not a fan of football or sports it does not make me a hater of atheletes. There have been some stellar athletes with stellar backgrounds and character and they should be commended. However when you have athletes that cross the line of being a “role model” for some… to a monster to others…I have a strong concern and the message that should be conveyed to them that these type of behaviors will not be tolerated should be expressed equally and fairly across the board and from state to state. No one is or should be any greater or less than when it comes to sexual assault. The trauma that sexual assault brings a victim is the same for all and the due process and punishment phase that comes to accuser should be equally so.
I pray for all these young women that have suffered at the hands of our “elite” athletes in America. I pray that they can begin to heal and restore their lives after such trauma. I do not care if you are a prostitute, an alcoholic, drug abuser, run away, or a young woman in the wrong place at the wrong time…that does not give anyone the right to violate or assault you. You are still a human being and you still have the right to say “No” no matter your circumstance and you should not have to feel that because someone is of a fortune or fame status that they are above you or the law and can do whatever and whenever they want to you and get away with it. Unfortunately our “Lady Justice” continues to send these mixed messages and as long as she does I have decided not to lose heart or faint but I will press on until I find the true meaning of justice because in my heart I know what it is or at least what it should be.