**Names have been changed for privacy**
Many years ago my brother Tom committed rape. He had recently come to live with me. I was thrilled because I thought together we would create a home of family together. We came from a home wrought with neglect and abuse, and in the past there had been no sense of “family” for us.
Tom’s lawyer talked with me, and discussed the details of Tom’s case and the evidence which the police had which led to the arrest. I knew Tom did not come home until about 4:00am the night of the assault. His lawyer said that Tom had testified that he arrived home much earlier that night. This was not true, and I advised his lawyer of the actual time which I remembered Tom arriving home. This could have been an opportunity for me to lie, to give Tom a false alibi. I felt that it was important for me to tell the truth and allow Tom to face the consequences of his crime.
It was a hard time for me personally. I had just traveled out of state, met my brother Chris for the first time, watch him be sentenced to life in prison, to return and deal with my brother Tom being removed from my home and arrested, soon to also face imprisonment. I felt that I was losing two brothers at one time. My hope to create a home with family disappeared in front of my eyes.
As hard as it was to allow Tom to face the consequences of his criminal act, it was important to me to do the right thing. If I had helped him remain free, then the survivor would not receive her justice. I felt that it was my duty to tell the truth to protect other women from his actions.
No one wants to believe that their loved one is a rapist. No one wants to stand back and let this loved one be sentenced to being incarcerated for many years. There is a part inside of us which desires to rise up and protect this loved one in our life, even if it means giving false statements to “protect them.” One of my other brothers blamed me for not covering for Tom. He said, “We cover for our own.” Obviously I did not agree. And I stand by my decision today.
I never met or even saw the woman assaulted by my brother. However I knew that she deserved justice. She deserved to be believed and supported, even by me; the sister of her rapist.
We often hear that many sexual assault victims feel re-victimized when they testify in court against their rapist. In many cases, the defendant’s attorney attacks her character on the stand seemingly to put her in a bad light with the jury. For those who testify, many will leave the courtroom feeling assaulted all over again, by the attacks to their characters from the defense attorney. The insecurity of feeling disbelieved is magnified if this victim does not receive belief and support by personal friends and loved ones.
This lack of belief and support can make it hard for victims to step forward to report the crime. For those who are able to make that step, some then find it to be impossible to follow through on testifying in the courtroom, also due to lack of belief and support. It additionally can hinder them from finding emotional and mental healing from the sexual assault against them, as well as the aftermath of feeling that they are not believed.
When a person in our society is assaulted, we owe it to them to help them to obtain justice, and to find healing and restoration of their lives. They deserve to be believed, and to feel supported from those around them; friends, family, those in the courtroom when their rapist is on trial, and anyone else in their lives.
I also know what it is to not be believed or supported by some of the people in my personal life after being assaulted. During my childhood, I am a survivor of child abuse and several of my family members ostracized me for speaking openly and honestly of the abuse. Fortunately I am blessed with many wonderful friends in my life, and they have given me an abundance of support, for this, and other aspects of my life which involved abuse and other negative experiences. Thanks to my friends, I feel very believed and supported. This has contributed to me being able to obtain healing from my past and experiences with my family, and to help me feel empowered.
To believe a survivor of assault, abuse, and other crimes, is to not only give support to their journey for justice against the person who hurt them, it also enables them in their journey for healing and restoration. To believe a survivor of sexual assault is to validate them as a person, and to validate their experience. As a person in the life of the victim, you can enable them by giving them support. And as a person in the life of the rapist, you can also validate the victim by allowing your loved one to face the consequence of their crime, and to allow your loved one’s victim to receive justice for the crime committed against them. As tempting as it may be to refuse to acknowledge your loved one’s crime, and as appealing as it may be to lie for them to help shield them from facing justice, it is important to allow your loved one to face the truth.
Mary Banos has worked in financial aid in higher education for over 20 years, assisting students with the financial means to achieve their goal of a college education. She also previously was a foster parent of adolescent girls, and now has 5 daughters from her time of foster parenting. In March of 2013 Mary published her first book, titled “Uplifting One Life at a Time,” about the power of encouragement. She is also a public speaker. Her vision is to encourage others around the world, helping them to overcome obstacles, and to reach their goals and dreams.