Dear Judge Matthew J. Murphy III,
Every single day of my life, I pray for victims of sexual violence.
This week you were responsible for handing down a sentence to Christopher Belter Jr., a 20-year-old man who, according to reports, pleaded guilty to third-degree rape, attempted sexual abuse, and two counts of second-degree sexual abuse involving four teenage girls.
While I was praying for the victims, you weren’t ashamed to say that you were praying for the appropriate sentence for the predator. You prayed for the proper punishment for a young man who already violated probation – a young man who has already shown that he thinks he is above the law.
He faced up to eight years in prison. And yet, for some reason, you decided to give him eight years of probation instead of a single day in jail.
According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), one out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. 82% of all juvenile victims are female, and 90% of adult rape victims are female.
While you may have never raped anyone (or at least I hope not), you are part of the problem. My friend, who is a therapist, once told me a rapist should be charged for murder because when you rape someone, you may not kill their body, but you murder a piece of their soul. A part of who they were before the rape is gone forever.
That perspective made sense to me. I was sexually assaulted (by the Department of Justice’s definition, I was raped) by two strangers in high school. After my assault, I developed an eating disorder, and fear consumed my life. I couldn’t stay home alone, and I couldn’t go anywhere by myself. My happy-go-lucky personality went flat the year following my attack. There were days I didn’t recognize who I was or even understand why I was in such distress.
It’s been nearly 20 years since my assault, and there is not a day in my life that I am not somehow affected by my attack. When people walk behind me on the street, my heart still races, and parking in an indoor garage still induces anxiety. While I hope Christopher’s victims heal more seamlessly than I did, I am in no way an outlier. In fact, I seem to have had it easier than many survivors. According to RAINN, 33% of women who are raped contemplate suicide, and 13% of women who are raped attempt suicide.
Rape is traumatic, and going through the process of filing charges against an assailant is another layer of torture.
As a teenager, I didn’t have the courage that Christopher Belter’s victims have displayed. For many years, I didn’t tell a single person what happened to me. But these young women spoke up while still trying to process their pain, and you failed them.
You didn’t think jail time would be appropriate.
Would you think the same if Christopher was black? Would you feel the same if Christopher wasn’t wealthy? Or do you just have no respect for women, their bodies, and their well-being?
Your sentence sent the message to victims – not just in this case but to all of us – that we don’t matter. Our pain does not matter.
Our bodies can be stolen, our souls can be murdered, and laws can be broken, and still, people like you will feel more of a desire to show compassion for the convicted predator than to give a punishment that fits their crime. I don’t know if you have a daughter, a wife, or a granddaughter, but if you do, you just made the world more dangerous for all of them.
While Christopher Belter Jr. is a rapist, you are a facilitator.
You may have prayed for an appropriate sentence, but I can promise you with certainty that your prayers were not answered. And this week, thanks to you and your decision, neither were mine.
These heroic young women deserve better.
They deserve justice.
We all do.