As I write this, you are 12 years old and have already been a witness in criminal court. You reported that you had been touched by a family member in a way that made you uncomfortable. I heard your words, and I saw your face as you took the stand. You are just 12 - on the cusp of womanhood yet still a child. I don't know you personally, and I could not speak to you, but I see that you are full of life, filled with curiosity about the world around you. You are energetic and articulate.
I heard everything you said, and I watched the interviews you had given to the police. I heard your words and some of your heart. I want you to know that I believe you. I believe you were the victim of a crime. I believe you were made to feel uncomfortable. I believe it happened more than once. I believe you.
But we failed you. I don't know why, but the others didn't think your word was good enough. They didn't believe as I do. They had reasonable doubt. I can't explain it; I wasn't there. But I wanted to say I'm sorry. I'm sorry we let you down. You were brave enough to come forward about experiences that must have been awkward and embarrassing. You did the right thing in telling adults you trusted, and then in talking to the police and detectives. You did the right thing, and I'm proud of you.
I'm sorry, Jane. I fear that this experience may have a huge impact on your life. It will change how you and your family relate to each other. It may change how you relate to adults you used to trust. It may change your view of police, of lawyers. It may change your view of men. It may have disillusioned you about the pursuit of truth and justice in our community and our country - as it has disillusioned me. This experience will change you in ways we don't yet know or understand.
My heart goes out to you. I ache for your pain, for your confusion, for your tainted childhood. Your story is familiar, but yours is the first I have heard in person. You are a smart, sweet young lady with a bright future. And I will remember you always. At the same time, you now stand - in my mind - for so many others in similar circumstances. When I hear other stories of children and young adults whose abusers go free, I will see your face.
I am sorry. You have been wronged. While I must accept the lawful acquittal of your abuser, I will remember. Always. And I will cling to the hope that you will grow to be a woman of great strength and wisdom - a woman of honesty and integrity - despite this experience. Remember the words from Moana*:
"I know your name.Remember who you are, Jane.
They have stolen the heart from inside you,
But this does not define you.
This is not who you are.
Yon know who you are."
I remain respectfully yours,
The silent juror
*Shurer, O. (Producer), Clements, R., & Musker, J. (Directors). (2016). Moana [Motion picture]. United States of America: Walt Disney Studios.