Lessons learned from the Luke Heimlich saga

By Sandy . . . Major league baseball’s draft is over, and Luke Heimlich was not chosen.

As USA Today put it,   “…no one would touch him.” Luke is, by all accounts, a truly gifted pitcher. Playing baseball isn’t just what he does; it is who he is. I will venture a guess that he will remain connected to baseball. Different commentators have posited several options for Luke that give him the opportunity to remain in the game and on the field.

I hope he takes one of them.

Whether or not he is guilty of the crime to which he pled, I believe that he is entitled to a second chance. If guilty, something he did at age 15 is NOT who he is today; it is something he did. Think of the tremendous loss to the world, over thousands of years, in so many areas of life, if no one was given a second chance.

Those who are victims of assault, all types of assault, deserve second chances also. The language used in describing such persons shows that we expect them to use those chances. Holocaust victims have been lauded for overcoming their past horrors and making contributions to the world. Individuals who have lost their entire families in tragic accidents are praised as brave and courageous for getting past the tragedy and building new lives.

Those who lived through horrific mass shootings where they saw friends, teachers, or colleagues massacred return to school or work and are praised for finding strength to recover and go on with their lives.

No one says of these people that their horrific experiences ruined them for life. We say that they get help, get support, and move past it. They do not forget; they recover.

It is only to the victims of sexual assault that we deny this gift.

USA Today does this not once but twice in referring to Luke’s young relative, referring to “the trauma his niece will endure the rest of her life…” and then saying that, with his not being drafted, “Heimlich’s victim won’t have to relive the trauma every time she turns on the TV and sees him play a baseball game.”

Nor are they alone. John Shipley, writing for pioneerpress.com, has decided that he knows exactly what this young girl’s future holds: “She has, in fact, been handed a life sentence of struggling to retain her self-esteem, build relationships and trust others.”

Readers, responding to this on comment boards agree. These are only a few representative of many: “…his niece is going through…a lifetime of pain.”; “That little girl has to live with the damage he did to her for the rest of her life.”; “She’s scarred for the rest of her life.”

WHY do we persist in telling victims of sexual assault that they are “scarred for life,” that they are “ruined,” that they will never recover? That is the absolutely worst thing that can be said to them. All legitimate counseling and therapy for trauma or assault victims, including sexual assault, focuses on recovery, on moving on, on healing, not on being a permanent victim. Why do people do this? How would you feel about yourself if you were told, over and over, that your life is ruined and you were scarred for life? It wouldn’t take long before you would believe it. It would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why do we want victims of assault to feel this way about themselves?

It is horrible enough that we want those who commit sexual crime to spend the rest of their lives suffering and forever feeling as though they are horrible people. Does anyone stop to think that people who feel this way about themselves have no reason to want to be better?

Permanent labeling of anyone as either a bad person or a helpless victim does nothing to improve individuals or society.

If we want to do that – improve ourselves, others, and society – we must find a better way.

Sandy Rozek

Written by 

Sandy, a NARSOL board member, is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.