Sunday, February 21, 2010

Safe Harbor

I was called to the hospital to respond to a report of a sexual assault.

A young woman had reported a rape. The police took the woman to the hospital for a rape kit and the suspect was detained for questioning. The police talked with each person and the two stories pretty much jibed.

Pretty much…
Except for the narrative about the actual sex act.
The man said it was consensual.
The woman said it was rape.

The man bragged to his friends about how he had just “got sex”.
The woman cried to me about how she had just been assaulted.

The rape kit will prove the sex act occurred.
The legal system must decide whose version of the truth they want to believe.

I am not hopeful that the law will side with the woman.
She was young.
She was homeless.
She was alone.

The police officer shook his head. “Looks like she just needed a way to get hooked up with [social] services,” he opined, effectively shutting the book on her case. “It’s too bad she couldn’t figure out how to do it without wasting all of our time.”

I understand that most police officers join up because they want to protect the public and catch the bad guys. I understand that this particular officer felt disappointed because his hot call was going to require a lot of paperwork and a lot of time and, in the eyes of the law, the suspect in this scenario would probably not be determined to be “bad”.
He felt his time had been “wasted” because police officers are trained to believe that protecting the public means stopping those who threaten our safety.

I am ashamed to say that, on that night, I was tired and I was so ready to leave the hospital and so I simply murmured something like, "Well, she's young." And I shook my head, just as the police officer had done, and I slid back into the room to be with the young woman.

Next time, I will challenge him to take another look.
Next time, I will offer the idea that protecting the public means helping to ensure that all citizens in our community are safe.

That night, this young woman was not safe. She was homeless and alone and scared.
That night, those of us who were there for her, made a difference.

For that moment, she was sheltered.
For that moment, she was not alone.
For that moment, she had people with whom to share her fears.
For that moment, she was safe.

It will be up to others to assist this young woman as she learns to string more moments together.
I have faith that, if the time is right, she will be able to do so.

And I know that it all started with a police officer that took a moment to answer a call to protect the public.
No one can call that wasted time.


Carrie Wilson Link said...

You rock.

Wanda said...

Can't believe I neglected this post.

You. I want you on my side.