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Why I'll Never Forget Being Called to Jury Duty as a Sexual Assault Survivor

I was relaxing by my fire pit a few weeks ago when my housemate brought me a piece of mail. It was a form I hoped I’d never see: a jury duty summons. I opened it, viewed the dates, and followed all the next steps.

My first day as a potential juror finally arrived, and I had all kinds of questions running through my mind. What kind of case might I hear? Will I know anyone else there? What if the case lasts for more than a day?

None of those questions really jarred me much. No question from any other potential juror bothered me either. The question that really got to me came from the judge.

We all piled into the courtroom and were told the case involved rape and domestic violence. The “innocent until proven guilty” defendant was a young man. The sexual assault survivor was a woman. I was sitting in the middle of the room — there were several people in front of me and several behind me. The judge introduced us to those who were involved in the case and read a list of possible witnesses. The judge asked questions like “Does anyone know these people?” and “Is anyone going to have potential hardship if they are required to be here?” A few folks raised their hands, and about five or six of them were excused. The judge then asked the question that stayed with me: “Is anyone here unable to remain unbiased due to life experiences?”

The thought had been in the back of my mind — I had wondered if they’d take personal experience into account. I’d felt uneasy and angry just thinking about the situation, and it felt like a ton of bricks hit me. I felt myself raise my hand before the question was even complete. I felt emotional as I saw numerous other people in the courtroom raising their hands too. I didn’t turn to look who raised

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