Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Victims’ voices left out of Morley trial story

I am writing in response to a recent article with the title “Taxi driver innocent of restraint charges” in the April 25 edition of this paper. Having attended the three days of the trial and knowing the six victims from the incident I find the article biased towards Marvin Morley with seemingly no attempt to understand or hear from the victims. Whether Morley was proved not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the felony or not, what happened to them matters and has had serious and lasting effects on their lives. Was it a case where the law did not provide a more accurate charge for what occurred, perhaps. But, by omitting their perspective in the article these young women’s voices were dismissed and their experience on the night of July 4, 2022, was negated. They are not simply women whose “imagination ran wild,” as suggested in the article.

The night of the incident the Vermont State Police were contacted and interviewed each of the victims individually and recorded their statements. At the time the two officers found them credible and found cause for charging Morley with six felony counts. In fact, the address one of them pinged on her phone while stopped at Morley’s home is one the police recognized right away due to at least one prior incident. If one googles Marvin Morley it is easy to find a Sept. 15, 2022, article from The Middlebury Campus reporting that the July 4 incident is one of several incidents involving young female passengers and Mr. Morley. There seems to be a history of him overstepping boundaries and making at least some of his passengers feel unsafe. Do they rise to felonious acts? Clearly the jury of nine men and three women did not think so. I believe the jury worked hard within the guidelines they were given by the judge. I can accept the decision of the jury regarding the felony charges against Mr. Morley and thank them for their service.

However, there remains in this state and country a history and problem of people not believing women’s voices when they are put in unsafe or sketchy situations by men. One only need look at the recent Justice Department settlement with the FBI for the latter not believing the young women who reported on Larry Nassar, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team doctor. 

I am happy to report that here in Addison County we do have State Police who are supportive and listen carefully to victims and are willing to testify in court on their findings. In addition, the night of the incident the troopers shared information about the victim advocate at the Addison County Unit for Special Investigations. Martha Bowdish worked extensively with the six victims supporting them at each turn in the case. Ms. Bowdish also helped get them support from Atria Collective (formerly WomanSafe). During that summer Atria advocates met with the victims several times both as a group and individually as needed. Ms. Bowdish and Jena Santa Maria from Atria also supported the four victims who returned to Middlebury to testify before, during and after the trial.

I spent my career working with women and girls to encourage them to find and use their voices in support of one another and themselves. It is important work because so many times publicly and privately female voices are dismissed or degraded by what happens in courts and how it is reported in the media. This kind of treatment often leads women and girls to be unwilling to report incidents and crimes when they happen. We as a society need to do better.

Ellen Flight

Middlebury

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