As an agency that supports victims of sexual assault, the recent news of a New Jersey judge’s leniency of a 16-year-old perpetrator because he is from a good family, is a good student, and is an Eagle Scout, is abhorrent.

Such comments only confirm what we at New Hope have long known, that the justice system is broken and fails to protect those who suffer sexual assault.

What this case also exposes is the way the criminal justice system works for those with money and power, and yes, for those who are white.

Sexual assault is one of the least reported crimes. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, nearly 63 percent of sexual assaults go unreported and only 12 percent of child sexual abuse is reported to authorities.

When assaults are reported, very few ever get prosecuted and even fewer perpetrators wind up in jail. Instances such what happened in New Jersey only serve to further keep victims from coming forward.

It is long past time to let “boys be boys” and not suffer the consequences of their actions. Victims spend the rest of their lives dealing with the trauma and its long-term effects. We see this on a daily basis at New Hope. It is time for us to work for real social change, for a culture that values women and children, for a system that doesn’t discriminate against people of color and poor people.

New Hope currently has advocates in the Attleboro and Taunton Courts to help survivors obtain protective and harassment orders.

We also have advocates in 10 police stations throughout Bristol County. Our advocates provide support and resources to sexual assault survivors. However, we alone cannot change the culture that allows sexual assaults to go minimized or trivialized. We need you. Speak out. Demand that misogynist and racist language end. Demand that perpetrators be held accountable. Support prevention education in your local schools.

Lady Justice is often portrayed as blindfolded, however for too many persons that is simply not true. Join with us to make it so.

The writer is president and CEO of New Hope.

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