I took a Facebook break last week, something about the realization that logging on was a choice that consistently made me feel not good spurred the move. I did the same thing with the news (except for that one damn brown recluse spider story.)
I cannot remember what headline made me click over to see what exactly John Grisham had said about pedophiles, but I did click. I saw his face, familiar to me from so many book jackets in our house as I grew up. He was a pulpy author, but people didn’t tend to scoff too much if you had his book in your overnight bag. I read them.
I remembered his name in the context of the actors who played roles in his movies—Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman. His name has meant something. I was already reeling from the Stephen Collins scandal, a story that I did pursue, all the way to listening to the recordings because we had been watching Revolution and I felt a compulsion to find out if it was true—how I thought I’d know if it were true, I can’t say.
Mr. Collins did very bad things, how many I am sure will come to horrifying light.
Mr. Grisham said things about very bad things.
He oversimplified things making sure that people understood that looking at sexed up teenage girls who may or may not have looked like 30 year old hookers was nothing like child sex trafficking and yet, they are linked.
Mr. Grisham said this in an interview with Above The Law about public opinion about lawyers:
Every time a woman’s account of rape is countered with commentary on how she was dressed, how much she drank, or if regret of sex played a role, we discount the severity of the violation. We chip away at that justice Grisham says fascinates us so.
Every time we don’t consider the impact of subtle sexism, we dilute justice.
Grisham mentioned that it wasn’t a little boy. He suggested that the punishment meted out for sex crimes should have a scale applied to it, based on varying degrees of what, I’m not sure. If we take that to apply to rape, is it the amount of bruising that should influence sentencing? Does the defendant’s sentencing get points applied like a mortgage, less points for age and education?
I am tired of hearing that rape culture doesn’t exist. I am tired of hearing that catcalls are a form of free speech. I am tired of society being fatigued by my resentment of being ogled, ignored, and legislated. I don’t buy the line that comments are made off the cuff. I believe that this is a reflection of genuine views that young women are here for the pleasure of men and that it’s harmless.
Grisham’s apology, which you can read here, included, “My comments… were in no way intended to show sympathy for those convicted of sex crimes”
I have no problem with feeling compassion for those who commit or are convicted of sex crimes. Personally I have not reached a point of sufficient zen to forgive my rapist or the neighbor who molested me, but my hat is off to those who can. What I would like, Mr. Grisham, is some modest amount of consideration for those who don’t make it to 60 without being mistreated at best, or violated repeatedly, day after day until their childhoods and potential for healthy relationships or enjoyment of intimacy are forever scrubbed from their beings.
Nothing was said of the young people, the vehicles for pleasure, through a screen or otherwise, of adults.
Shame on you, Mr. Grisham. Shame on many of us for not working harder, caring more, or being more willing to stand up and say, “No.”
This story and the others that seem to surround it has struck me to the core. If you are feeling the same here are some places to look for ways to help.
Support organizations like RAINN.
Familiarize yourself with the reality of violence.
Question the glamorization of abuse.
Decry the sexualization of young people.
Or maybe just start listening. Pay attention to how language is used to diminish certain situations or minimize discomfort in the face of things that are just plain awful. It will sober you.