A Survivor Fights Back on Melissa Harris-Perry After Judge Gives Her Rapist No Prison Time

Image via MSNBC/Courtney Andres on MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry
Image via MSNBC/Courtney Andres on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry

After a judge gave only six years probation and two years in a non-violent community corrections center to a convicted rapist for twice raping Courtney Andrews when she was a 14-year-old girl and then raping her again when she was 18, she is fighting back.

The assailant, 25-year-old Austin Smith Clem, was Courtney’s next door neighbor in Alabama. His defense attorney was friends with the judge. He never spent a real day in prison even though a jury convicted him.

On MSNBC’s “Melissa Harris-Perry” program this morning, Ms. Courtney Andrews talked about how she won’t feel safe until the man convicted of raping her is behind bars. Watch here:

Transcript from MSNBC:

To charges that she was complicit in her rape because she didn’t want to break her parents’ hearts by telling them, made by people who clearly know nothing about rape, rape statistics, rapists, or rape victims, Ms Andrews told MHP:

COURTNEY ANDREWS, RAPE VICTIM: I was 18 when I told. Actually, my best friend told for me because I didn’t have the heart to tell my parents.

It’s just that people don’t understand like the feelings come along with it — being scared, the fact that I was young, I was a child. You know, you threaten to hurt my family, threaten to hurt me. What was I supposed to do?

And it’s hard because people aren’t going to understand that. And a lot of people that have a problem with it, it’s going to be hard to change their attitude toward it. I feel like there’s not a lot that I can do to change their mind.

HARRIS-PERRY: But you are doing a lot right now to try to change the minds of the people who know that this man did this because he has been convicted of it, and yet gave a sentence so light that it is hard to think of as a sentence.


HARRIS-PERRY: So, you were protecting yourself, protecting your family, protecting your privacy for so many years, and now you are here having to reveal such a personal thing.

Why did you make that decision to stand-up and have a voice in this moment?

ANDREWS: I just felt like if it happened with me, then it probably happens to other people. And if no one has really stood up and said anything about it, then maybe no one will if I don’t. So I felt like it would be an injustice to other people if i didn’t. And I just knew I had to do what I had to do.

Host Melissa Harris-Perry, herself a survivor of rape, delved into the many layers a rape case goes through before ever being prosecuted:

HARRIS-PERRY: There is the decision to tell, and then there is a decision to go forward with the criminal actions with the court. And the decision to tell and the decision to go forward with criminal actions are very different choices. And often we don’t do the second one because of exactly this. This isn’t even, Irin, a case where the survivor is not believed by a jury, which is so often the case, but where a jury believes you, provides a conviction, and then a judge refuses to sentence and in so doing says this is a non-violent offense, basically.

HARRIS-PERRY: What do you need to feel safe?

ANDREWS: I mean, for him to be in prison. I’m not going to feel safe other than that, you know. Every time that I think about going home to see my parents, it’s going to be really hard every time I even think about my parents being home. It just really bothers me and it scares me, because they’re there and I know I’m only 20, but I want to protect them.

HARRIS-PERRY: Because you didn’t tell because you wanted to protect them.

ANDREWS: Yeah. I wanted to be strong for my family. I still want to be strong. And if that meant dealing with it on my own, that’s what I felt like I needed to do.

While outrageous, this is hardly unusual. Ninety-seven percent of rapists never spend a day in prison for their violent felonies, according to RAINN. They note that it’s even worse than it appears because rapists are serial criminals, “Because rapists tend to be serial criminals, this leaves communities across the nation at risk of predators.” So, when we let a rapist off, the chances are high that we are endorsing the rape of another innocent victim.

That’s a rape culture. That says it’s okay to commit the violent crime of rape.

This is the world we have created for rape victims — one in which they are alone, and don’t want to tell anyone because of the stigma, the threats, the shame and ultimately, judges like this one who endanger innocent victims of serial predators.

The shame belongs solely to the perpetrator, in this case the convicted rapist. The brave, courageous person here is Courtney Andrews, who is fighting the status quo and standing up for all victims. This is how change happens. Because of Ms. Andrews’ courage, the rape culture is taking another well deserved hit.

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