Refusing to be Silenced
Last summer, 17-year-old Savannah Dietrich was sexually assaulted by two teenage boys. Not only did they attack her, they also took photographs of the incident and shared with others. The two teenage boys recently accepted what Dietrich found to be a lenient plea bargain and have yet to be sentenced. In the meantime, court rules legally prevented Dietrich from ever speaking publicly about her attack and its perpetrators.
But Savannah Dietrich wouldn’t be silenced. At the risk of up to 180 days in jail and a $500 fine, Dietrich used Twitter to speak out against her attackers and speak up for other victims of sexual assault:
“There you go, lock me up,” she tweeted, naming the boys who sexually assaulted her. “I’m not protecting anyone that made my life a living Hell.”
Shortly thereafter, the attackers’ attorney asked the Jefferson District Court judge to hold her in contempt because she violated juvenile court confidentiality rules and the court’s order not to speak about the case.
Dietrich said: “If they really feel it’s necessary to throw me in jail for talking about what happened to me ... as opposed to throwing these boys in jail for what they did to me, then I don’t understand justice.”
On Monday night, the contempt charge was dropped. But Savannah Dietrich isn’t the only woman speaking the truth who has been silenced this year.
In February, Sandra Fluke was prevented from testifying at the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Hearing on contraceptives.
DC’s only elected representative, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, was denied the right to speak (not once, but twice!) during hearings about anti –abortion legislation that was proposed for the District by Arizona (!) Congressman Trent Franks.
In the Michigan Showdown of mid-June, Michigan State Representative, and 2010 POP candidate, Lisa Brown candidly spoke out against anti-abortion legislation. Rep. Brown and her likeminded colleagues were banned from the floor the following day—the last day before a five week break.
There is no making sense of the constant assault on women’s rights we’ve seen over the past year. The war on women isn’t a figment of your imagination—it’s a campaign being leveraged in steady waves by ultra-Conservatives in Congress and in courtrooms across the country.
Savannah Dietrich’s courage to defy an unjust system led to an outpouring of support that ultimately led to a withdrawal of the motion to be held in contempt. Savannah Dietrich, just like so many of her predecessors, proved that one voice fighting for what’s right can make a difference. Now more than ever, we need courageous, defiant women on the front lines. EMILY’s List candidates and alumni are among those leading the charge. Have you joined the fight?