This column may contain strong language, sexual content, adult humor, and other themes that may not be suitable for minors. Parental guidance is strongly advised.
Dear Rape Victim Survivor,
I don’t know you, but you are inside me—deeply and indelibly. In my heart, I feel your trauma. In my eyes, I carry your tears. And in my soul, I sense both your sorrow and your strength, and I see your own soul, so shaken, so damaged, yet so beautiful, and ultimately so triumphant.
I don’t know you, but I share your outrage and bewilderment at the shockingly light sentence your rapist got away with. Six months in a county jail and three years’ probation. SIX MONTHS, a judge who once claimed to be tough on violent crimes such as rape decided it would be ample punishment for a man who was found guilty by a jury on all three counts of sexual assault: intent to commit rape of an intoxicated/unconscious person; penetration of an intoxicated person; and penetration of an unconscious person. A man, now 20, who, on the 17th and 18th of January, 2015, apparently forced himself upon you in an alley behind a dumpster, WHILE YOU WERE UNCONSCIOUS, humping your inert, unresponsive, half-naked body, inserting things into your vagina, unbothered by the fact that you hadn’t given your consent because in your incapacitated state, you were unable to do so. Who knows what else he would have shoved up your vagina—A bottle? More leaves? His fist?—had two amazing Swedes biking past not noticed what was happening and called him out. And like a coward, he ran. And like decent people, they chased after him, tackled him, and called the police. And he was booked. And tried. And convicted. And yet somehow, instead of the maximum 14 years in a state penitentiary allowed by California law, considering the heinousness of his crime, his three felonies were rewarded with the judicial equivalent of a slap on the wrist.
I don’t know you, but I read your heart-wrenching letter and I know I would be nowhere near as gracious and eloquent and brave as you after what you have suffered. The viciousness of the attack, not just on your body but on your psyche, the scars you will bear physically, emotionally, and mentally for the rest of your life, and the way you are still standing, at 23, still defiant, broken, yet unvanquished, refusing to let the pernicious rape culture that exists in our world—embodied to disgusting perfection by the remorseless convicted rapist, his equally clueless, remorseless father, and his rape-enabling supporters, as well as a judge who seems to value the rapist’s life more than yours—define and dictate the narrative that belongs to you.
I don’t know you, but I know his name. Brock Allen Turner. The “Stanford swimmer.” The all-American white boy from an affluent family reeking of privilege. The once “happy-go-lucky” guy with the “welcoming smile” who enjoyed steaks, according to his father, and faced a promising future with Olympic potential, who now can barely eat, wrecked as he is by the events in which “deeply altered his life.” Yes, Brock Allen Turner may be all of the above, but he is also a rapist. He is a felon. He is a sex offender. He is a f*cking asshole who, instead of being accountable, in the face of overwhelming evidence, not to mention a conviction, for his actions, admitting he committed the assault, and acknowledging the horrific consequences of such, continues to point fingers at the out-of-control culture of binge drinking, peer pressure, and promiscuity at college campuses in the United States, including Stanford, pledging—in a letter to the judge prior to his sentencing—to devote the rest of his life to educating college students about the dangers of alcohol and “making poor decisions” while drinking. “I know I can impact and change people’s attitudes towards the culture surrounded by binge drinking and sexual promiscuity that protrudes through what people think is at the core of being a college student.” He drank too much, he added, “and my decisions hurt someone.”
I don’t know you, but I know Brock Allen Turner is full of s*t. And so is his father, who had the gall, in his own letter to Judge Persky, to minimize the suffering you endured to “20 minutes of action,” as if you were on a film set, and the director yelled, “Cut!” and it was over, and you brushed the pine needles off your hair as you prepared for the next take. As if the trauma you suffered had been imagined, as if the assault had been inconsequential, as if your very real ordeal and devastation were nothing compared to what his son was going through. Well, “20 minutes of action” was enough to rape someone. It was enough to ruin a life. It was enough to destroy a person and pulverize her to a shell of her former self. Who gives an actual f*ck if Brock Allen Turner can’t eat another steak when for you to make it through a 24-hour stretch without falling to pieces is a painful, arduous process? Who the f*ck cares that Brock Allen Turner is now battling with depression and anxiety when the horrors you are struggling with every single second of your life since the assault are far more crushing and debilitating than his? Who the f*ck gives a damn that his dreams have been shattered when he has stolen yours?
I don’t know you, but I know that alcohol is not the culprit here. Neither is promiscuity—the implied culprit being you. As you said so powerfully, rape is not about promiscuity, it’s about the absence of consent. Whether you danced suggestively at the frat party that night or not, whether you were wearing “sexy” clothing or not, whether you had too much to drink or not, whether you flirted with Brock Allen Turner before you passed out or not—all that is immaterial. What happened to you was not your fault, it was his, and his alone. And shame on Brock Allen Turner, and shame on his father, and shame on his defense lawyer, and shame on the judge for implying otherwise.
I don’t know you, but I am absolutely horrified that the judge agreed with Brock Allen Turner’s father that incarceration was too severe a punishment for “20 minutes of action,” as he had no record of criminal behavior. Again, in words so laden with the brazen, insensitive entitlement of the privileged, wealthy, and white make me want to retch. What happened to you is trivialized and dismissed as less important than what could happen to Brock Allen Turner. As if his being wealthy, white, and privileged makes him unlikely to have criminal instincts. As if his being wealthy, white, and privileged insulates him from the consequences of his actions. “I take him at his word that subjectively that’s his version of his events,” Judge Persky said. “I’m not convinced that his lack of complete acquiescence to the verdict should count against him.” Thankfully, Stanford University didn’t give two shits about his being white and privileged; they cared that he had raped you, and was therefore no longer deserving of his status as a Stanford student, star swimmer of not. “In less than two weeks after the incident,” according to an official statement released by the university, “Stanford had conducted an investigation and banned Turner from setting foot on campus—as a student or otherwise. This is the harshest sanction that a university can impose on a student.”
I don’t know you, but I am with you. Like you, I will speak out against this culture of rape that shelters rapists and vilifies victims; that shames them, parsing through their histories, framing them as being unreliable, vengeful, promiscuous sl*ts who asked for it. Like you, I will publicly condemn anyone who makes jokes about rape, who thinks catcalling is acceptable, who thinks consent is not necessary or can be taken for granted. Like you, I will not condone sexual violence in any form—verbal, emotional, or physical.
I don’t know you, but I think that there are things you are probably too polite to say in public, though you have every right to scream out words that echo your fury and frustration. So I will say them for you: F*ck you, Brock Allen Turner. F*ck you, Dan Turner. F*ck you, Judge Persky.
I don’t know you, but I thank you.
B. Wiser is the author of Making Love in Spanish, a novel published earlier this year by Anvil Publishingand available in National Book Store and Powerbooks, as well as online. When not assuming her Sasha Fierce alter-ego, she takes on the role of serious journalist and media consultant.
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Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.
Art by Dorothy Guya