The Stanford sexual assault case involving Brock Turner and a 23-year-old woman confirms the suspicion that women of this world keep in the back of their minds at all times — if you’re female, you are not safe.
Women often fear going places alone, sleeping alone, being in the dark, wearing anything that could be perceived as provocative, drinking at parties or letting their guard down, because we exist in a culture that privileges the words of men who assault women over the women who survive the assault.
The survivor in the Stanford case read a statement to Turner in court. Buzzfeed published the 7,000 word account that provides excruciating detail about the incident and the impact it had on her life. Turner apologized, but only for succumbing to party culture and drinking too much suggesting alcohol was responsible for the incident.
The jurors assigned to the case voted unanimously to convict Turner on three counts of sexual assault, which could have resulted in up to 14 years in prison. Prosecutors suggested a six year sentence.
The judge, deciding that Turner wasn’t a threat to society, sentenced Turner to six months of jail time and three years of probation. The reason? He didn’t want to ruin Turner’s life over one mistake.
The media is also cutting Turner slack by using his yearbook photo instead of a mugshot and describing him as a promising competitive swimmer rather than a felon convicted of sexual assault.
The protection the judge and the media are affording Turner reinforces the fact that we exist in a rape culture, one that doesn’t view rape as a heinous crime or women as worthy of justice.
Turner’s six-month sentence suggests that the 19-year-old’s life and athletic career are more important than the physical, mental and emotional pain of the woman who survived the assault.
In the victim’s letter, she writes to Turner:
“You cannot give me back the life I had before that night… While you worry about your shattered reputation, I refrigerated spoons every night so when I woke up, and my eyes were puffy from crying, I would hold the spoons to my eyes to lessen the swelling so that I could see. I showed up an hour late to work every morning, excused myself to cry in the stairwells, I can tell you all the best places in that building to cry where no one can hear you.”
While she rebuilds her life — learning not to fear the world — Turner is crying about losing his swimming scholarship over accidentally raping someone. His father laments that Turner doesn’t enjoy steak anymore, ignoring the suffering of the woman on the other end of the assault.
In a rape culture, women who are drunk, alone or dressed promiscuously are responsible for their own rape. How dare woman ruin the lives of men who violate the most private parts of their bodies, the culture seems to say.
This week marked the first time a major political party nominated a female candidate for the presidency, but the Stanford case proves there are still some ways in which women’s lives are not considered as important as those of men.
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