A Small Voice Can Make a Difference

Chantel Sheppard, Employee of the Month at Unspoken Voices

How I Learned to Stand Up for What Is Right

by Chantel Sheppard, Unspoken Voices

I’m sitting in the car traveling for the Easter weekend and I’m struck by the good news I’ve received. As those of you might already know if you’ve read my first blog post, I was sexually assaulted two and a half years ago now. Although this post doesn’t seem to be heading in a “happy” direction – just wait.

I promise it’ll be worth the read.

Coming forth to tell my story was—and is still—by far one of the hardest moments I’ve gone through. Not only did I have to go through what happened to me, but I was forced to re-live the nightmare each and every time I retold the story. I knew that I had to keep telling my story until this man – excuse me, boy – was out of my life. Or even better, jail.

But he didn’t get what he deserved…

I came forward to many people of authority, including Aaron Jordan, the Steven’s County Attorney. I trusted him. I was honest. I was emotionally raw. I poured into him everything I had all in hopes to give the boy who raped me what he deserved.

He turned my case down.

My head started spinning. I was lost. What else could I do?! That was my only chance at getting away from him. It was my chance to help other women stay safe from this animal. I let myself down, and his future victims.

According to RAAIN, about 68% of sexual assaults go unreported. How many rapists are left out in the world to repeat their actions then?! How many rapists won’t spend a day in prison?!

Statistics say only about 2% of rapists will actually spend time in prison…

According to statistics, I’m in the minority: I told my story. And damn was it hard.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

-  Proverbs 16:3

I gave up after Aaron Jordan turned me down, but recently something sparked my attention. He was running for the Eighth District Judge job opening. I was immediately urged to do something about it, but what? How could I stop this?

My good friend Kilo came up with the greatest idea: write a letter to Governor Dayton explaining why Aaron Jordan is not fit for the job. What a great idea – am I right? I got started on the letter right away. I had written pages on end about what happened, but I just couldn’t seem to write down everything I wanted. It was difficult. I went through police statements over and over – re-living that night. It was too difficult to put down the right words to express what I felt. Luckily, my dad was my best friend throughout the situation and is still here for me today. I told him about the horrible news (that Aaron has the chance to become a judge) and without hesitation he wrote a letter for me. For us. For every victim who’s ever been turned down by Aaron Jordan.

Here are bits and pieces of his letter below:

“In order for our justice system to function fairly and effectively in sexual assault cases and all other matters, a party must be given the opportunity to develop its claims and present them to a jury, except under narrow circumstances where it is clear the claim lacks merit or are legally barred. County Attorney Aaron Jordan, however, has proven eager to dismiss the claims of victims of sexual violence and stifle advocacy for these sufferers. Moreover, he has grounded decisions in a questionable manner involving an apparent fear of personal failure to present strong cases to juries wrong – interpretations of evidence and fact. If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable. Louis D. Brandeis”

“Case in point – August 2013
– A female student was sexually assaulted in a dorm room on the University of Minnesota Morris campus by male student.
– Victim was brought to Stevens County hospital to receive treatment, including administering a ‘rape kit’.
– University police department completes thorough investigation of reported case; report presented to Stevens County.
– Rapist’s personal testimony offers admission the victim not once, but numerous times, repeated herself in relaying a resounding ‘no, stop, why are you doing this!’
– Rapist’s personal testimony admits he has done this before.
– Rapist’s personal testimony includes statement that it his goal to ‘get as many women as he can’
– Victim understands and strengthfully agrees to testify in a court of law in Stevens County, in front of a jury, which many victims back down from.
– Stevens County attorney Aaron Jordan suggests cases of sexual assault are generally risky cases to bring to trial and ultimately Aaron Jordan failed to present charges against rapist.
– Sexual Assault victim defeated by Aaron Jordan
– Aaron Jordan exonerates self-admitted rapist
– University of Minnesota judicial process takes place, including testimony from both the victim and rapist to judicial panel.
– Judicial panel finds rapist ‘guilty’ of more than one violation, including university sexual assault policy.
– Rapist ejected from university, following panel’s conclusion.
– Rapist barred from attending any University of Minnesota campus, where victim may attend or transfer to – within University of Minnesota system.”

“Seated judges hold a high responsibility with our judiciary system(s). Aaron Jordan, based on clear and concise evidence, lacks the judgement for such responsibility. The case referenced within, has an observable evidentiary base. The rapist’s story changed a number of times – a clear sign of wrong doing and guilt. The rapist’s own testimony included a variety of confessional statements implicating nonconsensual sexual contact, sexual assault and/or rape – choice of phrase. I encourage you to examine Aaron Jordan’s track record involving sexual assault cases. It is worrisome knowing he has built a reputation of disregarding such cases. Victims are being double-victimized.”

“A bill is being introduced within both the DFL and GOP parties directly linked to the poor judgment of Aaron Jordan. The bill introduces a secondary review of such cases, taking away a single person’s ability to dismiss case. Aaron Jordan would not be allowed to be the final standing decision. Alternative appealing processes will be in place, so victims are not left in the hands of failed processes, such as what Aaron Jordan has created.”

“Although I am not a direct resident of the 8th district court counties, I am a direct resident of the great state of Minnesota. The 8th district is in my state. Not only is it an injustice to the 8th district court, but it is also an injustice to the state of Minnesota to be entertaining consideration of Aaron Jordan for the judgeship. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere – Martin Luther King, Jr.”

“If elevated, Aaron Jordan’s decisions on the 8th district are likely to resemble past practice; continuing to intrude on the fact-finding process. It is especially important that a judge appointed to a district court show restraint in determining whether to take the extraordinary step of disregarding evidentiary facts. Justice in the life and conduct of the State is possible only as first it resides in the hearts and souls of the citizens – Plato. As the county attorney for Stevens County of Minnesota, Attorney Aaron Jordan has shown an imprudent inclination to dismiss the claims of sexual assault victims and to inhibit advocacy by law enforcement in such cases, thus denying these victims access to a full and fair justice. You have two additional nominees, Cherie Clark and Amy Doll, and I am optimistic the two of them are viable candidates in your consideration for the vacant judge seat.”

I am pleased to announce that Amy Doll is now the new judge of the Eighth District.

Thank you to my father and Kilo for being huge supporters. I love you.

Voices were heard. Prayers were answered. Praise be to Him.