The thing about vigilante justice…
I have been reflecting on the most recent spate of violence that has been plaguing our country. Specifically, I have been thinking about the ways in which certain acts of violence (sexual assault, rape, murder) beget other acts of vicious, vigilante violence.Two cases come to mind immediately, but acts of vigilante justice are not new to our homeland.
I recall in the Lokisha Nanton case, before Patrick Lovelace was arrested and charged for that shocking murder, a group of people had acted as judge, jury and almost executioners of another man in Sion Hill, subjecting him to a beating that has never left my mind, in the same way that Lokisha’s death remains etched in my heart-memory.
The thing about the desire for vigilante justice is that it taps into something very primal in human nature. There is the horror of the original act of violence, the violation of an innocent that goes against the ideas of community and the familial ties that bind us. We wonder how someone, one of us, could do such a thing, take such actions against one of our own, especially an innocent.
We feel outrage, emphasis on the rage part, and we want immediate answers. We want to purge ourselves of these feelings of horror, lack of control, and violation by finding and exacting our own satisfaction on the offender/ perpetrator/monster.
The feeling is normal. I recall my own reaction to the murder of Lokisha Nanton, who lived in my neighbourhood, and the more recent cases of little girls being violated in the worst way.
So I understand the source of the desire for vigilante justice. However, I also believe in the concept of due process where the [sometimes slow and imperfect] wheels of justice must be allowed to run their course, to ensure that the right perpetrator/offender/monster is arrested, tried and convicted. The young man who was beaten in Sion Hill back then could have been killed, while the real offender remained at large. Vigilante justice is dangerous in that regard.
Something else to consider is whether or not the acts of vigilante violence bring any real reprieve to the original victims. I am thinking specifically of the cases of rape and sexual assault of young girls. How do these acts of violence, bred by violence, contribute to the healing of young victims?
There is a lot of energy and spirit behind a community coming together to seek their “justice”, but imagine what that energy could achieve if it were harnessed to rally the state for stricter sexual assault legislation, rape crisis centres, counselling for victims and safe houses just to list a few ideas that could help victims.
Imagine what that energy could achieve if it could lobby for more effective and effusive sensitivity training for police officers handling reports of rape and sexual assault, or community workshops that emphasize sexual consent, initiatives that could help prevent future incidents and aid survivors of assault. Because let’s face it, we have a rape culture problem in Vincy that no amount of vigilante violence could redress.
I get it. I empathize with the families of victims and the communities who live with this experience of being violated. As I am writing this I wonder about the little girls who are now survivors of assault and about the steps being taken to help them to recover from their trauma. I often wonder what I would do if, heaven forbid, I were to be in such a situation.
I do however feel that vigilante justice does not help the initial victims and it could often lead to wrongful death and injury.
There has got to be a better way.