Thursday, November 11, 2010
Justice unserved. Thursday, November 11, 2010.
"My daughter did not get any justice." June Justice, Samantha Kelly’s mom
"I told him, 'You're hurting me. Stop. You're hurting me, and I want to leave.'" Samantha Kelly, age 14, said that she made her wishes clear when 18-year-old Joseph Tarnopolski forced himself on her.
Joseph, a popular senior who shared Samantha’s math class, ignored her pleas and did as HE pleased. So the Detroit-area girl contacted authorities and pressed charges against him: statutory rape.
But the students’ classmates took sides, and they began to taunt Samantha. They taunted her so much she began to miss class. Three weeks ago she OD’d, but survived for still more taunting. So two days ago, Samantha hung herself.
Samantha’s death results in two tragedies: heartbreak for her mother, June Justice, and her other loved ones; and the fact that the Huron Township Police had to drop charges against Joseph.
You see, without a victim, no one can be charged with rape. Those accusations evaporate into thin air. Like they never existed at all.
To Joseph, who admits he had sex with Samantha but claims it was consensual, Samantha’s suicide doesn’t mean much. When interviewed, Jospeh made it pretty clear that he wasn’t too broken up about her death. He refused all but “a little bit” of responsibility for Samantha’s harassment, adding, "If she was getting ridiculed, it's not because of me.”
National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center finds that rape victims are 13 times more likely than non-crime victims to attempt suicide. Clearly, sexual assault in and of itself is a risk factor for rape. But Samantha didn’t hang herself the day after the rape. She hung herself after weeks of teasing by classmates.
After she was assaulted, Samantha did exactly what authorities would have said she should have done – she pressed formal charges. She was strong enough to do that. That took courage. Guts.
But what Samantha couldn’t deal with was the re-victimization from other teens, many of whom had been her friends. If Samantha had hoped her suicide would elicit guilty feelings among her classmates or in Joseph, it didn’t work.
Instead, Joseph wins. He gets to carry on with his life. In a year or two, all but Samantha’s family will have forgotten this situation ever took place.
And if rape is something Joseph happens to enjoy, you can bet he’ll have more opportunities with other girls in the future.
I don’t think Samantha would have wanted that. Do you?