“[T]hey let me shower. I stood there examining my body beneath the stream of water and decided, I don’t want my body anymore. I was terrified of it, I didn’t know what had been in it, if it had been contaminated, who had touched it. I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else.”
You might have noticed in the last few days that the Stanford rape case, in which a young man named Brock Turner was convicted of 3 accounts of rape, has gotten a lot of attention. There are countless news articles, blogs, open letters, and the like all over social media. And while some have spoken out in defense of Brock Turner, the majority agree that
Brock Turner is guilty
Brock Turner is privileged.
Because, you see, Brock Turner was convicted by a jury of his peers on 3 counts of rape. He faced years in state prison, but the judge chose instead to sentence Brock to merely 6 months in county jail and probation. And Brock’s sentence could be knocked down to 3 months for good behavior. And he will be registered as a sex offender.
Like the Affluenza case of Ethan Couch, it appears Brock Turner has been cheated out of a chance for a fair punishment. One that takes his crime and the preservation of our society seriously.
“220. (a) (1) Except as provided in subdivision (b), any person who assaults another with intent to commit mayhem, rape, sodomy, oral copulation, or any violation of Section 264.1, 288, or 289 shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or six years.”
I really have nothing more to add to this story.
I’m writing this because this case has moved me. It has spoken to me so profoundly. When I read the victim’s statement this past weekend, I cried. And I have continued to cry the more I read and hear about this case and of the aftermath.
Because this woman is me. She’s every woman.
If you are not a woman, let me explain something to you right now: members of the female gender are told at a very young age that one day we might be terrorized in this way. That one day we could have someone say something inappropriate to us or try to touch us. That one day, we will meet a person who will look at us and not see a human but rather an object.
That one day we might be raped.
This isn’t paranoia or melodrama – this is the world we live in.
Once when I was a teenager, I read in a teen magazine that 1 out of 3 women will be either sexually harassed or assaulted at some point in their life.* I read that statistic as I sat with two other girls, friends of mine. And a storm grew within me that I struggled to keep hidden. To bury deep down so that those two girls would not see. Would not know.
Because, you see, by that time in my life, I was the one out of 3 women.**
And I don’t know: maybe I wasn’t the only one in the room that day who has been hurt by a sick person. Maybe that day it was 2 out of 3. Maybe all 3 of us had been hurt in some way. I don’t know because no one talks about being sexually assaulted.
We live in a world where we understand that terrorism is when a suicide bomber destroys a town square in some foreign country we’re not even sure we can find on a map, but when someone rapes another person
when someone looks at another human being and sees no worth, no value – just an object that can bring him/her pleasure
when someone strips another person not just of her clothes, her modesty – perhaps even her virginity – but of her personhood
that is terrorism.
And we – we stay quiet.
Convicted rapist Brock Turner didn’t just rape a woman behind a dumpster in January 2015. He didn’t just use and abuse her. He terrorized her.
In her own words, she confirms this in her statement released by Buzzfeed on June 3:
“The night the news came out I sat my parents down and told them that I had been assaulted, to not look at the news because it’s upsetting, just know that I’m okay, I’m right here, and I’m okay. But halfway through telling them, my mom had to hold me because I could no longer stand up.”
“Nobody wins. We have all been devastated, we have all been trying to find some meaning in all of this suffering. Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.”
“It is embarrassing how feeble I feel, how timidly I move through life, always guarded, ready to defend myself, ready to be angry.
You have no idea how hard I have worked to rebuild parts of me that are still weak. It took me eight months to even talk about what happened. I could no longer connect with friends, with everyone around me. I would scream at my boyfriend, my own family whenever they brought this up. You never let me forget what happened to me.”
“I have to relearn that I am not fragile, I am capable, I am wholesome, not just livid and weak.”
Brock Turner is guilty. Just as there are so many other men and women in this world who are. Are they – these rapists, these abusers – beyond hope? I don’t think so. I truly believe that they can receive help. That they can rehabilitate and repent.
But they are beyond hope when they do not own up to their crimes. And when we as a society let them by perpetuating rape culture:
By telling a victim,
You were drunk
You wore something too revealing
You shouldn’t have been there
You should have known better
You shouldn’t have been alone
You were asking for it
Your fault, your fault, your fault
And by remaining silent.
“I was the wounded antelope of the herd, completely alone and vulnerable, physically unable to fend for myself, and he chose me. Sometimes I think, if I hadn’t gone, then this never would’ve happened. But then I realized, it would have happened, just to somebody else.”
In the Stanford case, though, the victim did not remain silent.
She took her voice back. And she was heard.
The life she once knew is gone. Those “20 minutes of action” have changed her. In her future, there will be days when she will be better. When she will smile and laugh and not be afraid.
There might even be days when she won’t think about it. Maybe. Maybe not.
But there will also be times when she won’t want to get out of bed. When she won’t want to eat something or be in a certain place or talk to a certain person because for some reason she doesn’t even understand it has triggered her memory, and all she can think is that she was raped.
There will be nightmares. There will be fear.
But she is strong. She has worth. She is more than “20 minutes of action” behind a dumpster. She is a person. She will survive.
I hope that in those dark times and in those bright ones, she will remember this week. She will remember how the world heard her speak.
And I hope that there will be people around her who will remind her that she is a person who is worth so much more.
I am strong. I have worth. When I speak, I am heard. And I have people who remind me of that daily.
That is why I am writing this today. Because it’s time to speak up and to speak out. It’s time to be a light in a very dark world.
“[T]o girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. As the author Anne Lamott once wrote, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you.”
Speak up. Speak out.
*I don’t know if this stat is still true today, and I was unable to find it online. But it was an article published by Seventeen in 2003/2004.
**Yes, I am a victim of a sexual crime. But at this time that is all the information that I choose to tell. Please do not pity me. That won’t help anyone. But do please respect my privacy on this issue and do not gossip about this.
Check out this article on why the Stanford rape case stands out from most sexual assaults. It has a lot of information, stats, and charts.