A Time to Speak — ‘If a girl falls down, help her up’

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Father Adam B. Carrico

By Father Adam B. Carrico

“If a girl falls down, help her up.”

This line comes from the letter the Stanford University rape survivor read aloud to her attacker, Brock Turner, during the sentencing phase of his trial.
Such simple, and yet powerful advice: If a girl falls down, help her up.

How I wish this world didn’t need such a lesson, but that is a wish and not reality because this world definitely needs this lesson.

Many have been captivated by the so-called Stanford dumpster rape case and the Internet has seized with resentment over the mild sentencing the young man received for his deplorable acts. Six months in county jail, when he could have received a sentence of 14 years in prison.

The judge’s rationale for such a lenient sentence? A longer sentence would have “a severe impact on him,” as if the survivor of that attack has not faced a severe impact on her life.

I call this young woman a survivor, not to diminish the fact that she is a victim, but because her actions are heroic and she should not have to identify as a victim for the rest of her life. As Vice-President Joe Biden remarked in his open letter, “You are a warrior — with a solid steel spine.” That’s how I like to see her and the countless other women who fight against a culture that tries to blame them for the terrible acts committed against them.

I have experienced a range of feelings in connection to this story. I cannot imagine what she has gone through; I don’t want to; I am weak and could not bear it, it’s just too much.

Understandably, she too wanted to escape at times. In that letter to her attacker, she recalled how she “wanted to take off [her] body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else.”

She cannot, however, avoid what has happened to her and so I have sat with my emotions: anger, sadness, disgust, dread. And all I can hear is the Holy Spirit calling me to do something. The fire of that same Spirit fills me with the desire to scream: Enough is enough!

This tragedy, along with the many countless other accounts of rape, sexual assault and victimizing the guilty while vilifying the innocent demand that people find the courage to speak out.

I speak not because I’m a priest, or because I’m Catholic, but because I’m a human being and I’ll speak from the former because of the latter. I say it again: Enough is enough.

This culture is not pro-women, it stands for using people and getting away with it.

I call on every man out there to stop acting like little boys and realize that you have the responsibility to be just as infuriated with this as your girlfriends, your sisters, your daughters and your mothers are. Enough really is enough.

We must stand up for the protection of all women, of all life, not because women are weak and need us to, but because it is part of our way of living out our humanity. As a spiritual father to countless children, as well as numerous wonderful young women, it makes me sick to think of what they have, and will experience, at the hands of someone who wants nothing more than to use them for their own pleasure.

People need to hear how this has affected me, but they need to hear from you as well. Will you join me in my call for a safer world for all women?

Father Adam B. Carrico is assistant chaplain at Sacred Heart Academy. He currently serves as associate pastor of St. Gabriel Church and will become associate pastor of St. Patrick Church on June 22. He blogs at HarvestersWanted.blogspot.com.

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