To take the law into your own hands is an invitation for death.
Listen to Terry Williams, a Philadelphia man who went too far. He killed his alleged former sexual abuser and now faces the death penalty. Whether or not he is innocent or guilty, it poses a question to our system of law.
Should clemency be granted to those who have justified themselves in committing an act of murder?
With sexual abuse victims, the case is unique. If we allow the psychological implications that come with pleads of poor mental health or insanity, it’s only fair to allow victims of sexual abuse a similar sympathy.
While it can be said that murder is not a justifiable action for victims to engage in, it should be understood that 54 percent of all rapes and sexual assaults are not reported. Sexual abuse is often a humiliating process to explain, and is extremely difficult to measure the scope of and how people may mentally react from years of abuse.
Many victims are uncomfortable to reach out for help, fear being faulted for their actions, or may even risk their own privacy or status if believed to be untruthful about his or her assault.
It is such a difficult thing to judge because the damage of abuse victims doesn’t always manifest physically; it is mental and unseen. Abuse itself opens the door for poor judgment beyond the common logic that other people who commit crimes can easily comprehend.
The mental effects of abuse disrupt the corpus callosum, which connects the right and left side of the brain. It is decreased in size of victims of abuse, which causes dramatic shifts in mood and personality.
Abuse victims also have higher levels of stress, often being stuck in a chronic state of anxiety, due to the “stress hormone” cortisol reaching abnormally high levels. Various disorders that affect mental states also develop with victims, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and various forms of depression and addiction.
Although everyone is subject to his or her own subjectivity concerning this, it is really not up to anyone outside a victim’s situation to feel as if they can perceive the mindset that the victim is in.
At the very least, courts can be empathetic towards the victim and try their best to assess the evidence properly, if there is any.
California is generally sympathetic towards acts of murder in general, with 80 percent of murderers who are eligible being released on parole. While Williams’ case is across the country, it’s difficult to understand why such an act of mercy isn’t bestowed upon those who have suffered obvious mental trauma.
To open up the door in allowing “justified murder” does not necessarily mean the door to mass murder is open. It simply means that pardoning should be based upon an individual basis. If facts point to abuse, the person being charged should have the option to have charges dropped and be offered psychological treatment.
Rules are made from law, but laws should not solely be dictated by arbitrary rules. Unless statistics and concrete knowledge exist, our system sadly fails to assess individuals in an empathetic manner.
While the motives and late evidence of Williams are questionable to some, his story does not exemplify everyone. There are many who are being broken down because of abuse with nowhere to turn.
Instead of running by the idea that murder is simply murder, we need to assess victims as individuals with unique mental problems and experiences.
They say an “eye for an eye,” but we all see the world through a different lens.