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Justice Made

“There can be no healing without justice. And justice requires courage.” This has been our basic message from FaithTrust Institute for many years. As we have worked with individual survivors, perpetrators and institutions, often people have asked, “well, what does this justice look like?”

“There can be no healing without justice.  And justice requires courage.”  This has been our basic message from FaithTrust Institute for many years.  As we have worked with individual survivors, perpetrators and institutions, often people have asked, “well, what does this justice look like?”

It looks like what happened in a Cleveland, Ohio, courtroom last week at the sentencing of Ariel Castro for the over 900 charges of rape, kidnapping, and assault which he inflicted on three women, Michele Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, he kept enslaved for ten years in his house.  He pled guilty and was sentenced to life in prison without parole plus 1,000 years.

  • One of the survivors, Michele Knight, read her statement to the court.  This is what “truth-telling” looks like:  “From this moment on, I will not let you define me or affect who I am.  After eleven years, I am finally being heard and it’s liberating.”
  • “Gina [one of the other survivors] was my teammate.  She never let me fall, I never let her fall.”  Sisterhood is indeed powerful.
  • “What does God think of you hypocritically going to church every Sunday and coming home to torture us?”  This is the challenge to every faith community: what did he hear preached every Sunday?  Where was the Gospel: “It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” (Luke 17:2)

Castro also spoke in court. While he weakly apologized to the victims and said he hoped they could forgive him, he then turned to blaming them and justifying and denying his crimes: the “sex” was consensual, “I’m not a monster,” “I never beat them,” “ . . . we had a lot of harmony going on in that home.” In his rambling statement, the “truth” of who he is shown clearly.

Because of the remarkable strength and courage of these three women, because they had each other, they survived ten years of hell. Now because the court did the right thing, because the community and their families rallied around them, because a neighbor heard their cries and helped rescue them, because they have had a chance to tell their truth and be heard, their healing has begun. Sadly, this outcome is the exception and not the rule for victims of sexual and domestic violence.

The next time you wonder, what would justice look like?  Remember Michele, Amanda and Gina; remember the Good Samaritan; remember the widow in Luke 18 and find a way to be a part of this narrative for the next victim of violence. Making justice is our shared responsibility and the mandate of our faith.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute
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justice and healing

Posted by Diane Harmon at Aug 14, 2013 07:27 AM
I so very much appreciate your insights. I just wanted to say, that I have seen so many survivors who do not get justice through the courts, either because they didn't tell, or didn't want to get police involved, or their case was "unfounded", etc.... I think whether the perpetrator gets convicted, serves any jail time, or not, the survivor has his or her own parallel journey of healing he or she is responsible for. No one can take that away from them, and they can go at their own pace. I believe that healing is possible without justice through the courts. Closure of a different sort, by telling, being believed and supported, and going through their own individual grief process, even better if collectively with a support group, at least for the ones I have had the privilege to work with. Thank you.


Posted by Emma Justes at Aug 14, 2013 07:28 AM
When we doubt our power as women and what we can do when we join together, we need to remember these three very young women and their ability to survive and to care for one another. What a gift to all of us! We can't deny or ignore what they suffered and lost, but we can celebrate that they found a way!

Thankful for Justice

Posted by Laurie Hagen McConkey at Nov 04, 2013 01:26 PM
I am so thankful to hear that Justice was done here. I really needed to hear some good news. Most often victims don't get justice so this gives me hope for the future - our communities are being educated by situations like this. They're becoming educated about what abusers look like, who they associate with, what good liars they are. Hopefully people will begin to understand that they can't ignore suspicions or let abusers talk them out of their suspicions because they are sweet-talkers. Abusers are often so slick at convincing everyone they are the same person in private as they are in public that people just write off any accusations that they could be a predator. As the public becomes more aware I hope there will be more Justice and victims will be rescued much sooner. I wish there had been justice for me