The defense of Judge Corey has been pretty gross.
The facts:
A white man kidnapped, strangled and sexually assaulted an Alaska Native Woman. She did the brave thing and immediately reported and asked for help. The police did their job – found, arrested, and charged the man. Over the victim’s request, the man was then released into the third-party custody of his wife. He recently accepted a plea deal that meant he would not spend any time in prison, would not get charged with a sex crime or be registered as a sex offender, and his probation will be up next year. The D.A. did not contact the victim about the deal, and later claimed it would be impossible to. Media found her within the hour. Multiple people without state resources at their disposal found her. Police found her. And she has shared she gave them multiple numbers to reach her at.
Both Judge Corey and the Asst. D.A. gave terrible comments at the sentencing, and no thought or words were given to the victim. Only this white man’s loss of a job due to his own actions was being considered as a loss. The Asst. D.A. Stated that the perpetrator gets this “one pass.” A free pass to commit violence against a Native woman. How very familiar this all feels.
The Fault:
The ultimate failing was the Asst. District Attorney and the D.A.’s office. They did a crappy job. Period. They could and should have charged for more, worked with the victim, and NOT spoken up FOR THE DEFENDANT in sentencing.
Fault for this lack of justice also lies with the legislature. The laws about sexual violence in this state are lacking. We know that. We’ve known that. We’ve been testifying, and writing, and speaking about that. The laws are actually now worse.
But Judge Corey absolutely bears responsibility for his role in it. Every defense has a version of “yes he could have done this BUT…” He could have done more. Period. Even if that meant the perpetrator “only” spent a few months in jail or more months on an ankle monitor, he had the power to do more. At the very least it would show he valued the victim’s burden. And he certainly bears the responsibility for his own words at sentencing.
The Problem:
And yet we saw an immediate public defense of the judge, and even the D.A. Those in the political and judicial systems spent a few days batting around responsibility for whose fault it was against the immediate public outcry.
The people most outspoken about this disgusting outcome of our justice system have been the Native Women of Alaska. They are the most affected by this situation and the overall system in which this keeps happening. They also have the least amount of power in this state.
And the people who hold most of the power, primarily white and primarily male, are using that power not to speak up for the victim who did not receive justice, but come to the defense of a judge who has plenty of power in this situation. They are treating the judge as the victim in this.
So here’s what I see:
If you are a powerful statewide media organization, and have not spoken up, or organized on, what can be done to inform on justice for victims, or use your collective voice to support the victim, or talk about what the D.A.’s office could have done, but choose instead to release an editorial signed by your (primarily white and male) board coming to the defense of the judge – you are part of the problem.
If you are a person in the judicial branch, who has special insight into what goes on there, and can inform people about how to better navigate these crimes, inform people on what the D.A. should have done, and talked about what huge changes need to happen to better get justice, but instead chose to use your platform to defend the D.A.’s choices and the judges – you are part of the problem.
If you are a lawmaker who could have, should have done more in every single session you’ve been in to strengthen Alaska’s laws regarding sexual assault crimes, and are absolutely in possession of the knowledge about the lack of safety Alaska Native women have in this state, but chose to only use your platform to vaguely suggest we as a state “all need to do more” – you are part of the problem.
If you have in any way publicly come to the defense of Judge Corey, posted about it, argued for it, wrote an op-Ed about it, but have not first publicly come to the defense of the victim – you are part of the problem.
Let me re-state that so I’m really clear on this:
If you have more quickly come to the defense of a white man who has a ton of power in this state, and have not come to the defense of the Alaska Native female victim who has absolutely no power – You. Are. A. Problem.
I am not surprised that those few in power, or with special knowledge of these systems, who have actually spoken out publicly to defend the victim tend to be women, and/or tend to be people of color.
In all honesty, whether Judge Corey keeps his job or not, I don’t have much value tied up in that. He’s definitely a problem, and he deserves to lose his job for it. And yes – the broader statement it will make about how seriously we as a state are willing to take this is enough of a reason.
And you know what? Judge Corey will be just fine. He’ll find another job. He has financial means and political and judicial muscle behind him, and he’s going to be just fine whether he is retained or not.
You know who is not fine right now? The victim. She knows the value of her life in this state with an utmost certainty. And now she also knows with a certainty her attacker is out there, with barely a consequence for what he did, and she could meet him on the street any day.
The Alaska Native Women of this state as a group are also not fine. We’re in danger. Our safety is in danger. Our lives are in danger. We did not need this situation to know how this state values us, but this was a piercing reminder. And every time we see you defending the men in power over the women who are in danger, we know we are no closer to being safe.
This is a problem. It’s a severe, life-threatening problem to tens of thousands of women in your state.
You have a role in this problem.
You can be part of the solution.
You can be part of the problem.
You have only those two choices.
You are choosing right now.