Judge Rosemarie Aquilina

We have all read about the gropers, the sexual harassers and the extent to how this issue is pervasive in every industry.  It is shocking on one hand yet not surprising on another but what is upsetting is the more that comes out, the more numb we become to the onslaught of revelations.  Just as there are killings in high schools and workplaces on a daily basis and it is beginning to feel like the norm.

This past week, the trial of the Larry Nassar was presided over by Judge Rosemarie Aquilina.  Nassar hid under the cover of Michigan State and the USA Gymnastics organization.  There has been a lot of conversation around the Judge and if she crossed the line in her powerful sentencing or allowing 160 women come forward with their stories of sexual abuse by Nassar.  She opened the courtroom to anyone who cared to speak.

I applaud Judge Aquilina.  She gave these young women, who have been abused by Nassar, the opportunity to speak out about what happened, in a safe setting of the courtroom and the face their abuser.  I do not believe for one moment that this opportunity will be the catalyst to healthy lives or just the therapy they needed but it certainly couldn’t hurt each of them to be empowered over their abuse.

I am not tying harassment to sexual abuse of minors but what the Judge did was to allow something that has been so under the covers for so long become public.  Hopefully, she gave others who have been abused be it sexual harassment or sexual abuse, that watching Aquilina give victims a platform to speak out will hopefully bleed into others who are holding their tongue about something that has happened to them.

I hope that this is just another hope for the crack in the shield that abusers have been hiding under for longer than we can imagine.

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Two responses:First I am with you all the way. The abuse of trust here is so so out of hand and I applaud the judge as well.Second is the article in the Times last weekend.https://t.co/z1DvjcowaSI can’t shake this one.For one, as Chuck is a hero artistically of mine and second as while I am very black and white on this topic, the nuance here as it pertains to artists–or anyone–especially those no longer here raises some interesting questions as to how we address this.I have a Chuck Close in my entry hall and every day I sit and look at it and am having some trouble coming to grips with this. I feel I need to respond to it in some way after this was one of my most read posts ever. http://arnoldwaldstein.com/

    1. Gotham Gal

      The art in the museum’s thing is a whole other topic. I am not even sure where I stand on this one. Do we go back to the past, or do we just move into the future?

      1. awaldstein

        I think we need to make this a societal and behavioral change for certain.I think the idea of purging the past or even footnoting the past is a bad hole to jump down.

    2. LE

      and every day I sit and look at it and am having some trouble coming to grips with this.I predict you will end up removing it from the entry hall and then selling it. Why? Because art is all in your head. And now the ‘party’ has ended or at least been tainted sufficiently to not have the same meaning. You pass that by everyday and now it’s a negative (by what you are saying..)One thing I don’t believe in for sure is ‘mass punishment’ of institutions because of what people do or have done. I think that is not only wrong but unfair to the employees who work there, the vendors the entire ecosystem that has zero control over what the CEO does or has done (dismantling the Weinstein Company).I am not goading you to sell the painting either. Just think that it won’t hold the same shine for you going forward.

    3. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Damn. I hadn’t seen that.This isn’t going to be an easy walk we all take together. For me, it really does ruin the art or artist when I learn this stuff. How can I possibly separate the art from the artist? If that’s how it is, then all information about the artist should be removed from the museum, no? No name, date, historical context. Just the art. But it isn’t that way. Far from it. And so for me, artists don’t get the luxury of being evaluated separately from their art.

      1. awaldstein

        purges are historical pograms and connote a host of wrong actions. bad things regardless of good purpose.

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          I should have specified that I don’t advocate any kind of purge — just speaking from a personal participation standpoint. But I must, nonetheless, always remind myself of what you say. Times like this can lead one into rationalizing that the ends justify the means.

          1. awaldstein

            Behavior and culture must and will change.To think there are not deep nuances is to side track that change.To remove the complete works of someone like Roman Polanski is insane though he is a convicted pedophile. People will choose.Purges and rewriting history does not work.Conversation and consumer choice does.

      2. TanyaMonteiro

        no one should “get the luxury of being evaluated separately from their art”/life/work…..etc. In the end our reputations are everything. In my experience this exact paradox or societal acceptance is why so much of this abuse continues. I do believe the fact that we are talking about it and questioning our own thinking is an enormous help in bringing light to this old epidemic.

        1. Gotham Gal

          I completely agree.

        2. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Agree completely.Arnold was examining the idea of purging museums of these artists… It reminds me of a conversation I had a couple of years ago with a colleague from England when they were looking at taking down some very old university statues there at the request of students of color (I can’t, embarrassingly, remember the details). I said they definitely should take the statues down. But my colleague felt that because the person portrayed in the statues lived SO long ago, that the history was SO old, it didn’t make sense — that eventually there wouldn’t be any statues at all. This was a liberal person, BTW.At the time, I said the ‘slippery slope’ argument wasn’t a strong one because slippery slopes very rarely actually come to pass. So it’s a baseless argument. But later I thought about it more, and I realized that much more important is the idea that we should never ever value our statues or any objects over our respect and honor of fellow humans. Not only that, it’d be a beautiful gesture of solidarity for the establishment (white people) to bring down those statues — to be more than willing to give up their cherished objects in honor of their even more cherished fellow humans. It’d be really healing for all involved.So wouldn’t some gesture of collectively invalidating art created by serial abusers go a long way toward healing?If someone said to me today that we should purge all art created by known Nazis in our museums, I would be ok with that. There’s more art out there that’s just as valid and valuable and important that can take its place. If a society decides together that if you’re a Nazi you don’t get any glory in our world, that your art is in invalid, that’s a good message to send, no?What if an artist was revealed to be an animal abuser? Would we still want to look at his art about animals and hang it in our museums? How about a child porn trafficker?I guess if we don’t want to purge, we need to look at how we add context and give equal time to those who were hurt and oppressed by abusive artists? I don’t feel ambivalent about invalidating art created by people with trails of victims, but I feel like in times like this it’s worthwhile for ‘whitehats’ to make sure they aren’t allowing themselves to use ‘blackhat’ tactics to achieve their ends. Always go high.

          1. TanyaMonteiro

            I’m South African, I relate to all your questions. Overall the tendency when it comes to trauma is to want to shy away from it. That’s part of the cycle of how trauma works, that we don’t like the way it feels to talk about it so we try to push it away. Then when we finally realise what we have been living with or without the pendulum swings 180 degrees the other way. I hope we’re at a different moment right now and we can find useful ways through all the complexities that being human seems to imply. #justsohappyfortheseconversations

  2. JLM

    .Let’s be clear — what Judge Aquilina did was to allow victims to make statements prior to sentencing. Under the Rules of Civil Procedure, this is a know and allowed action. Happens all the time.In this instance, the real story is the sheer magnitude of the crimes.This really goes to the unwillingness, inability, collusion of a great number of levels of oversight related to this predator. How did that happen? How can such behavior exist for such a long period of time?The enablers need to be rolled up and punished. This is, thankfully, happening.Victims need to know two things:1. When something happens, tell someone. Tell at least three people.2. When someone learns something, make damn sure they do something about it.This creep should have been exposed and dealt with 20 years ago.The big mystery to me is where were the parents of these victims?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. LE

      The big mystery to me is where were the parents of these victims?This is exactly what I thought as well. Here you have a large number statistically (160) and you have no parent that had a clue or for some reason was so set on their child being a winner that they completely ignored any information to the contrary. It’s almost as if it was the equivalent of how people ignored the signals from Madoff or in the housing collapse. How is that similar? In both cases large groups of people were incentivized to ignore things that seemed a bit off. They easily accepted “nothing to see here move along”. They wanted so much to live vicariously through their kids that they ignored the danger.One thing is for sure it wouldn’t surprise me if some parents were told by their kids about what was going on. And those parents are not going to come forward now and admit to that. Or they will wiggle out of it.

    2. Susan Rubinsky

      “Let’s be clear — what Judge Aquilina did was to allow victims to make statements prior to sentencing. Under the Rules of Civil Procedure, this is a know and allowed action. Happens all the time.” This is correct. The media, however, has tried to position this as something unusual. It absolutely is not.Here’s a little qualitative story that can help answer why the parents and the institutions that enabled this were so oblivious:In the early 1990’s I was the survivor of nine month stalking which culminated on an attempt on my life by another student who attended the same university as me. He was someone I had dated previously and also someone from my home town so my family had known his family for many years. At the outset of the stalking, I reported the conduct to: my friends, my parents, the university (the university police and also the Dean’s office), my professors, and to the local police. I continued to report each incident to all of these people as they continued — and escalated — over time.The local police were the only people who helped me, but just barely. Depending on the officer, I was given a lot of bogus advice, including: drop out of university, move away, etc. This also was before there were stalking laws in my state (at the time only CA had a stalking law) so each crime perpetrated against me was considered a separate and unrelated crime. The perpetrator was very strategic about attacking me when he knew no one would be there to witness it. For example, he knew I worked as the weekend manager of a local store and that, often, I would be the first person there to open the store or the last one out when closing the store. Keep in mind that this was before the time where video surveillance and other technologies that are now ubiquitous.My mother’s responses were along the lines of “Oh, he’s just still in love in with you. His heart is broken.” Many friends had the same response. This is because we live in a culture that has ingrained bias for men and against women. For his crimes, people, in general, thought, “Oh, poor boy, he’s heartbroken.” If the tables were turned and I was the perpetrator, people would have said and thought, “What a a crazy bitch.”Even when the perpetrator left a death threat on my phone answering machine on Valentine’s Day, the police said, “It’s only a misdemeanor. Are you sure you want us to arrest him?” They made it clear to me that they thought, by arresting him, it would make him more likely to carry out his threat. Rather than arrest someone for something he did wrong, the police put the onus of the wrong on the victim, as if she would be responsible if he did, indeed, try to kill her. This was, yet again, another example, of systemic bias. There were literally hundreds, if not thousands, of these biases throughout my nine month ordeal.Can you imagine what a young woman must feel like when everyone she is supposed to trust — the people and institutions around her — aren’t helping her and are, instead, turning every incident along the way into a judgement call on the woman? Personally, I was pissed off by it all and had a spine of steel so I carried forth and badgered the police to arrest this man. I am sure the police were quite sick of me calling everyday to ask how the investigation was going.Eventually he did show up at my apartment and shot at me seven times, one shot barely missed and skimmed by my right ear — a sound I will never forget. Luckily, he missed. He also then took off and was not found until the next day. Finally he was arrested.When the case finally did go to trial, the judge allowed me and my family members to make statements in court before sentencing, just as Judge Aquilina did recently in the Nassar trial. I was told then that it was standard practice to allow victims to make personal statements before sentencing.I understand deeply how and why Nassar continued to operate without repercussion. I understand how each and every day there are multiple little actions and statements by people within institutional systems that both supported the perpetrator and denied the voice of the victim. All of these little daily incidents add up to thousands and thousands of obstacles that build a wall behind which women understand that there is very little support for them and there is much support for the perpetrator.Perhaps it would be interesting if we could somehow setup some kind of virtual experience for people to step into where they can experience the very real and incremental experiences in situations like these that add up to silence. Maybe then people would have more understanding about how this happens, how things get to where we are now. It is because, in most cases, the silence that happens becomes the only way to survive.Breaking silence is happening a lot these days because, I suspect, we’ve finally reached a tipping point. But until the tipping point happened, survival depended on silence. As Audre Lorde so beautifully said, “Your silence will not protect you.”

      1. JLM

        .Glad you made it through. No excuse for what happened.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Susan Rubinsky

          It was a long time ago. But it’s been an experience that has given me insight into a lot of things in life.

      2. Gotham Gal

        Wow. What a story. I am sure if you weren’t so tough things might have ended quite differently. Luckily you survived a shooting although I am sure it rattles you still today. Thanks for sharing this.Just curious, how long did he stay in jail?

        1. Susan Rubinsky

          Ironically, he was let out on “good behavior” after three months, which made me very angry when I found out. I didn’t find out until a few years later. Back then there was no victim notification law in CT. I found out he was out because I accidentally ran into him in the grocery store.

          1. Gotham Gal

            much have completely freaked you out to the bone.

          2. Susan Rubinsky

            It was a long time ago. But I recall being taken aback and then quickly departing.

  3. pointsnfigures

    I was glad the judge made room for the father who tried to attack Nasser in court. She didn’t punish him. I empathize with his (the father’s) feelings.

    1. TanyaMonteiro

      out of 160 it’s surprising to me we only saw one father act in that way

      1. Gotham Gal

        For sure