Alcohol is no excuse
I write in response to Courteney Stuart's [April 29] article "UVA rape case, Student accepts lesser charge." The parents of Zachary Jesse are quoted as saying that their son pled guilty to the lesser charge of aggravated sexual battery in order to spare his family and his victim and her family further pain of a trial on the charge of rape. They also express that they "share" the pain of the victim as well as their desire that the family of the victim "appreciate" their pain.
This is absurd and is a clear example of a small part of what is wrong with the way our society views sexual assault.
What Jesse's parents are feeling would be described best as disappointment, embarrassment maybe even horror at what their son has done to another person.
What the victim has had done to her is violent, intimate, personal, and so abhorrent as to be incomprehensible to any compassionate person. To speak of the pain of the family of the perpetrator of such a crime in the same sentence as the pain of the victim of it is beyond ridiculous.
The further expression by the attorney for the Jesses that alcohol was the cause of his client raping the victim demonstrates even more that when it comes to sexual assault we, as a community, just don't get it. Alcohol doesn't excuse behavior by anyone. If Jesse had gotten drunk and run over a 10-year-old with his car, no one would be saying that alcohol was a reason to think it wasn't a serious crime.
As a UVA student, I think the fact that part of his sentence requires him to withdraw from the university for two years while the victim finishes her degree is good. The fact that this requirement came from outside the university is, frankly, disgusting. The university prides itself on its Honor System. Students caught lying, cheating, or stealing are "exclude[d] permanently from student status..."
Yet the option to return to the university is open to Jesse. Further, apparently absent external judicial decisions, Jesse would be free to continue his pursuit of a degree at UVA without interruption. This is intolerable.
The Honor System purports to create a "community of trust." How can such a system reasonably allow someone who has been convicted of assault on another student, much less "aggravated sexual battery" to remain in the community of trust?