There is only one word for what I have read this week regarding the Stanford Rape Case: disgust. Need some background? Last January, an ex-Stanford swimmer named Brock Turner was caught sexually assaulting an unconscious woman on campus. It was not until the victim heard about what had happened to her in the media that she truly knew the extent of the assault. In March, Turner was found guilty in court of three counts of sexual assault. However, this week he was only given a sentence of six months in county jail. Really, six months? The maximum sentence was 14 years.
The sentencing spurred outrage among the public. Your newsfeed is probably filled with angry statuses or tweets about the unjust ruling from what is supposed to be our ‘justice’ system. The best part was the reasoning for the short sentencing. The judge stated that he feared that a longer sentence might have a “severe impact.” on him. A severe impact on him? How about the severe impact that the assault had on the victim? The sentencing is truly a slap on the wrist. Did he get preferential treatment for being an elite athlete hoping for a chance at the Olympics some day? Maybe. Was the judge biased because he was a male? Seems like it. Will 6 months in prison really make him learn his lesson? Probably not. The kid is most likely counting his blessings that he got off easily.
More times than not, sexual assault victims do not come forward. And while we’re at it, let’s stop calling it assault. Let’s call it what it really is; rape. Rape is one of the most unreported crimes. Many times the victim blames themselves. They feel ashamed of their actions, their bodies, and the events that occurred. They were flirting or they were wearing a suggestive outfit and think that may have been the reason this terrible thing happened to them. The shock and trauma of the events make them seem to forget that it was anything but their fault. The victim here was able to come forward which was a huge step. However, the pathetic sentence received on the attackers end might result in deferring future victims from coming forward. Events like this portrayed in the mass media will cause rape culture to continue on as it has been. Why would a victim see a benefit to going through all of that pain reliving the assault to have their attacker get off easy? They wouldn’t. This will just encourage victims to face this issue alone.
The judge claimed that a longer sentence would “severely impact” Brock Turner. It was later found that a letter had been sent to him from Turner’s father suggesting that fact. He begged the judge to go easy on him and to not to sentence him to years of jail for “20 minutes of action” (source: The Skimm). This is a clear cut example of a parent thinking their child is God’s gift to planet earth, no matter the circumstance. I’m all for supporting your child but I for one hope that I am never a parent that’s so blind that I can’t see that my own child is a monster. The judge here should be persecuted for allowing the opinions of others affect his judgement.
In reality, the severe impact is left with the victim. Her life was ruined. She will never be the same. She will never walk around and feel safe. For her, her body will feel tainted; contaminated even. She will forever be distrustful of others. She will never forget no matter how hard she tries. Her family will never forget the photos of her bruised and battered body and that will haunt her as well as them. Sexual experiences will forever bring her to a dark place. If her life is ruined, shouldn’t the proper punishment be a life of suffering for him as well? That seems just and should seem so in the eyes of our justice system as well. The act might have only been 20 minutes but the result of those 20 minutes will last a lifetime with the victim.
Meanwhile, Turner claimed that “college drinking culture” caused him to act this impulsively and to engage in sexual activity with her. His team of lawyers tried to convince the court that because she could not remember the assault, that she could not claim that it was “unwanted.” These two things are exactly what is wrong with our society today. First of all, no one forced Brock Turner to drink that night. Secondly, beer didn’t make you commit a crime. Turner committed a crime of his own volition. Nothing and no forced him to act out. He deferred any and all responsibility and put the blame solely on alcohol. “One night of drinking can ruin a life,” he said (source: buzzfeed.com). Alcohol didn’t ruin your life. You ruined someone else’s life. His inability to see the problems that lie here as well as his denial of the assault and lack of remorse prove that he should be serving a sentence much longer than sex months. Next, sex without consent is rape no matter what. The victim was blacked out, unconscious, and therefore unable to verbally consent. The fact that anyone in this day and age tries to put the blame on the victim just appropriates rape culture even more. No matter how much she had to drink it was still not her fault. She didn’t ask to be raped. She certainly didn’t ask to have sex. Her choice was taken away from her when Turner decided to take what he wanted despite her loss of consciousness.
The victim released a statement to the defendant in court, which she then released to Buzzfeed News. The statement showed just how much the rape has impacted her. Her detailed account discusses her experience at the hospital, learning she was raped, seeing her bruises and abrasions. She described the terror and disgust she felt with her own body. The reaction on social media from anyone and everyone, even celebrities such as Lena Dunham was tremendous. One can only hope that the widespread support and backing of others will show other victims that they are not alone and will mitigate the impact that this terrible sentencing would have on future victims coming forward. Hopefully this will inspire others to share their story, to speak out loud without regret and to fight for themselves and their rights as human beings against sexual offenders.