AFRICANGLOBE – Dear Judge Butler, I’m trying to find an adequate word to describe what I’m feeling after hearing about the sentencing of Austin Wilkerson.
Shocked? No, see that doesn’t cut it — because your sentencing is one in a line of naïve, unthinkably stupid sentences handed down to entitled young rapists in this country. Angry? I could certainly use that adjective — but the anger that I feel is so palpable and physically sickening that I’m not sure if even that word can encompass how I feel about your decision. Outraged? Of course I am — of course the entire world should be just like they were when the sentence for another privileged, white, college-aged rapist, Brock Turner, was revealed.
Have you read the incredible, heartbreaking, brave statement given by the survivor of Austin Wilkerson’s crime? Did you hear her when she spoke in court? Can you feel her pain? Does her life matter to you as much as the life of her rapist? Perhaps you need to hear yet another voice — read another statement — one addressed directly to you.
Your sentence was not handed down in a vacuum. It sends a message to every person in this country that sexual assault isn’t a serious, punishable offense. Your sentence tells young men that as long as they are white, show an inkling of remorse for their crime and behave themselves during trial, they too can rape with impunity, without fear of true repercussion. You send a message to every victim of sexual assault that even if they do have the, as you say, “admirable strength” to come forward to police, they will endure the hell of a trial only to have any semblance of justice evade their attacker. By not sentencing Austin Wilkerson to prison, you sent a very loud and clear message that the state of Colorado does not take rape seriously and doesn’t care about those who have been wronged in the eyes of the law.
When you were admitted to the Colorado Bar Association, you made an oath, do you remember? Do you remember placing your right hand on a Bible and repeating the words: “I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed?” Have these words gotten lost in the many years of a shiny, illustrious career? I suppose they have, because these words were most certainly not taken into account when you sentenced Wilkerson to probation for one of the most monstrous crimes known to man.
Would you sentence a murderer to 20 years of probation, Judge Butler? Would you wrestle with sending them to prison because they have shown remorse in trial? I don’t think you would, and yet here we are, after Austin Wilkerson did so maliciously and without forethought murder a part of his victim. Does this sound dramatic to you? Are my words seeming irrational? Perhaps you believe I’m speaking out of turn, as I am not the victim of Austin Wilkerson’s crime.
My rapist showed remorse in his trial too, Judge Butler. He said that he was sorry for taking away my childhood, my innocence, my future. He was soft-spoken and kind, too. His needs as a handsome, athletic, 16-year-old were also put ahead of the needs of the person he raped — me.
I’m writing to you today as someone who can attest to the brutality of rape, and the even more damaging process of reporting the crime committed against you — particularly when your rapist is sentenced to 20 years of probation, or in my rapist’s case: five years of probation, a curfew and mandatory therapy.
I don’t know if you have a daughter, a niece, a sister, or a wife that you have to look at and justify this sentence to, whether out loud or in your own mind.
I can guess that you know and love at least six women. I want you to think of them now, as you read my words. Think of their smiles, their laughs, their dreams, their strengths. Now, I want you to know that statistically one of those women will be the victim of sexual assault, perpetrated by someone just like Austin Wilkerson — the man who you sentenced to probation. I hope that if the day ever comes when one of these incredible women is relying on the justice system to deliver them the righteousness they so deserve they have a more competent judge than you.
By: Chandler McCorkle
Mr. McCorkle graduated from the University of Colorado in 2015.