Cordelia Qiġñaaq Kellie
Editor’s note: This story contains graphic descriptions of violence and sexually-related assault that may be disturbing to some readers.
I felt like walking tonight.
I left my boyfriend’s house and the warm breeze, the not-yet chilly autumn air, and clear sky made me want to bypass my car and keep on going until I found myself home.
When I reached my apartment, I took a moment to enjoy the wind before going in, watching the trees swaying and appreciating the yellowing leaves, lamenting that I couldn’t have enjoyed it longer. Though walking was distance of a couple of parking lots, I had gotten in my car I drove myself home.
There many moments predominately men take from us. I had felt enlivened and wanted to go walking tonight. But I thought of hands across my throat, and waking up in unimaginable straits.
Personally, experiences over the course of my life have taught me that I, like many, am cherished; I have the love of my parents, who love me more than I could ever comprehend, and that of my spirited and brilliant sisters, my nephews who look up to me, my beautifully-hearted partner, my community and friends. I am hugged daily, my cheeks are kissed with frequency, and my skin bears the memory of being held by dozens of aunties, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, face cupped by beaming faces.
I also imagine the victim has likewise experienced having been loved in her life. Now imagine taking the lifetime of work, being raised by a community, and the love of many, and being left shamed, strangled, and waking up covered in ejaculate.
I am an Alaska Native woman; regarding the victim of the assault perpetrated by Justin Schneider, what is the difference between her and me?
If this thought brings you pain, my beloveds, it is nothing compared to her pain. If it disgusts you that I would write such a thing, direct your disgust at the perpetrator.
If this is too real, this is the reality in which we live. And because the judge cared more about the violator’s potential in life, he got to walk away, perceived as a good candidate for rehabilitation.
Per the September 21 State of Alaska Department of Law press release: “While the facts of this case were particularly disturbing, Mr. Schneider’s offensive physical contact with bodily fluid such as semen is not categorized as a sex crime under Alaska law.”
Laws reflect the values of a society; with this outcome, what do we value? What do we care for more: the future of a man, or the justice of this woman?
From a local news article, “Anchorage Assistant District Attorney Andrew Grannik said Wednesday that Schneider lost his job working for the federal government as a result of the case, a consequence he called a “life sentence.”
To quote the father of the Stanford rapist, the outcome was “A steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action.”
What about the lifetime ramifications of the sexual destruction of a woman?
Press release: “The State dismissed the most serious charge based on the conclusion that the State would be unable to prove the kidnapping at trial. Kidnapping requires that the victim be “restrained” or moved against his or her will. Additional investigation determined that the victim willingly got into Mr. Schneider’s vehicle and willingly drove with him to the location of the assault. Under these circumstances, the criminal charge of kidnapping (as defined under Alaska law) could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
This sounds like, “She shouldn’t have gotten in his car.” A familiar refrain. You may also be familiar with,
“She should have locked the door.”
“She should have had a gun.”
Or in my case tonight, “She shouldn’t have been out walking, alone.”
When we will stop expecting men to murder, to rape, to assault, to throw us away, instead of answering the pain of women with a cheap retort: “She shouldn’t have gotten in his car.”
I envision a world where I may accept the kindness of strangers. When did that dream become so brazen and bold.
“Based on Mr. Schneider’s lack of criminal history, the sentencing range for the offense was zero to two years in jail.”…Director Skidmore explained, “All prosecutors are ethically required to follow the law, no matter how disturbing the facts may be.”
As we know, every great evil in history was enabled because it was in accordance with law, with prosecutors ethnically required to follow the law. The violator is not required to even register as a sex offender, because of the law.
Mr. Schneider walked away because the law enabled him to do so. Law reflects the values of a society: When will justice for victims become what we value above all.
Cordelia Qiġñaaq Kellie and her family come from the rural village of Wainwright, a community of 570 off the coast of the Arctic Ocean. She is the publisher ofNalliq,an online repository of stories and poetry regarding Indigenous issues. She received her Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Rhetoric and a minor in Communications from UAA in 2011 and her work has included rural community economic development, legislative affairs, and language and cultural instruction and social justice issues. Cordelia is doing her graduate work on sex trafficking and Alaska Natives in the the Rural Development program at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.