On behalf of sexual assault survivors | AspenTimes.com

On behalf of sexual assault survivors

Dear Editor:

On Sept. 15, 2010, a jury of six found yoga instructor Steven Jon Roger guilty of two misdemeanor counts of unlawful sexual contact. The outcome of this case was in stark contrast to two high-profile local cases involving allegations of sexual assault that did not end in convictions on the sexually related crimes (Centennial and former APD officer Joe Holman).

Of course every case is different as it relates to the allegations, the defense and the evidence, and therefore every case must be judged accordingly by the jury using the standards of law. Yet I know that I speak for many in the community when I say that I felt heartened to see justice play out in the form of a guilty verdict rendered in a sexual assault trial. By nature, these are some of the most difficult cases to successfully prosecute for a multitude of reasons, including the tendency to victim-blame, the normal human desire to think this couldn’t happen in our community and the lack of evidence to be found in a “he said, she said” scenario.

The fact that a guilty verdict was reached in this case is a testament to the hard work, dedication and courage of several individuals and agencies. Personally, I would like to commend the Aspen Police Department and Tina Schairer for a professional and thorough investigation, the Pitkin County District Attorney’s Office and Richard Nedlin for a thoughtful and powerful prosecution, and the jury of six men and women and the two alternates who gave their time to listen carefully to the case before them.

I would also like to honor the two survivors and the two supporting women who bravely came forward with their stories to the police. Obviously, it is never easy to be the victim of a crime, and for sexual assault victims at trial, these challenges are magnified. As a community we owe a debt of gratitude to them for their courage, their inner strength, their sense of justice and their important decision to educate us about these issues.

It is my hope that the outcome of this trial sends a powerful message to the community that violence against women in all its forms is both immoral and illegal, that offenders will be held accountable and that survivors of abuse do not need to live in shame or silence.

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Jill Gruenberg

court advocate, Response: Help For Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault