The New Year is quickly closing in on us. While we are all preoccupied with what national horrors January 20 will usher in, Franklin County women may want to take note that the second trial of accused sexual predator and former state senator Norm McAllister is scheduled for the week of January 9, 2017. The pretrial conference and jury selection are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday of that week, and the actual trial begins on Wednesday, January 11 at 8:30 AM at the Franklin County Courthouse on Lake St. in St. Albans.
I plan to be there in symbolic support of the three alleged victims, even though only one of those victims’ complaints will be heard that week. I hope many more local women will join me there.
The first trial, which took place last fall, turned out to be no more than an exercise in humiliation for the young woman complainant. In the courtroom, men significantly outnumbered women, and the front rows of the gallery were lined with male members of the press and the defendant’s allies. It’s funny how that happens.
So the victim was confronted foremost with a throng of curious but indifferent male faces as she attempted to summon memories of the most intimate and embarrassing details of the attacks. The accused, on the other hand, sat facing front and was never required to answer a single question.
I described the experience in great detail on GMD in the hope that more women would feel compelled to fill those front seats at the next trial to give the victim a little moral support.
The third victim has since passed away in circumstances that have not been shared. She was the mother-in-law of the victim who will be testifying in January.
Like so many victims of unspeakable assaults and sex trafficking, these are women who were already challenged by poverty and a total lack of alternatives. Victims such as these do not tend to have confident and articulate friends who are likely to show up in a courtroom to demonstrate their support. An unpleasant courtroom experience is therefore made even more lonely and punishing for them.
It is no wonder that the young woman who testified at the last trial crumbled under pressure from a relentless attorney skilled at targeting her weaknesses. We owe these women our gratitude for their courage and sacrifice in bringing these crimes to trial. It may seems a thankless job, but for every woman who does step forward to charge her attacker, there are dozens who simply bottle up the nightmare inside them, so that their tormenter remains free to attack again.
Was justice served in the first McAllister trial? I don’t think so, and many others agree; but that is faint comfort for the young woman who was returned to the blunt world from which she had emerged, far worse for the wear and without the benefit of closure.
So, if you, like me, feel that sexual assault against one woman is a crime against all women; and sexual assault committed by a man of stature and responsibility against a weak and vulnerable woman is particularly repugnant; perhaps you will think about showing up and wearing a teal-colored ribbon to show your support for victims of sexual violence.