“I don’t claim this to be fact but I see a pattern emerging in rape culture that suggests that women have a past, while men have a potential. When women are violated, we’re asked ‘what did you do to deserve this?’ and often our past is looked at for clues. When men violate women, they’re asked ‘what do you have to lose?’ and their future is looked at for clues.” – Facebook, Louisa Curry.
When I was nine, I had a pack of Brock Turners. Sometimes there were three of them, sometimes they invited friends. When we moved two years later, I was free. One of them looked astonishingly like Brock Turner – so much so that in my brain, their faces are melding. This has the effect of me seeing the face of my own abuser everywhere. I cannot look at the news without seeing those eyes staring at me, asking me just how I’m enjoying my life now.
PTSD is an incredibly difficult illness. This is known. I have, by and large, conquered the beast. I can get up every morning, move about the world relatively unfettered by flashbacks or feelings of revulsion, make an impact – until something like this happens. I know the woman who wrote the amazing, courageous letter that Buzzfeed published, will have a similar experience. Something will flash remind her of what she wants never to be reminded of. Like me, she may smell pine needles and dirt and need to bite down on something so that she doesn’t cry. She may hear whispers in the night that tell her that the word Love is synonymous with Captivity. Her stomach will flip inwards every time she hears of another woman hurt, another body violated.
Nine years old cannot consent. Unconscious cannot consent. Neither have a past that has anything to do with their rapes. Nobody has a past that has anything to do with their rapes. Rapists are the sole cause of rape.
These things seem to be simple facts. I’m not sure where the confusion lies.
The problem with people like Brock Turner is that they feel they are entitled to whatever they want. These are the men and boys who cannot conceive that a woman wouldn’t be interested in their dicks. These are the men who catcall women, and then say “fucking bitch” when the women tell them to get away. They post rape threats on social media platforms, behind screens where they feel safe and all-powerful. They cannot handle rejection. They believe Woman is the right of Man and Man needs to claim Woman, so that all is right with the world. They believe Woman is a thing that can be claimed. They believe that scoring happens on the field and wherever they appear.
As children, they aren’t taught empathy and they aren’t taught about consent. They don’t understand that what they are doing, forcing their fingers into someone against their will, imposing their body upon another’s, an insidious marking that leaves a stain on the heart of their victim no matter how many times she tries to wash herself clean, is an act of violence. And beyond that, it’s an act of war. It’s war against the right of self. When they are caught, they claim she wanted it. When they are caught, they claim she never protested. They don’t understand that we, as women, have to fear more than just this sex. We are afraid for our lives.
When you are pinned beneath a man you do not want to be having sex with, part of your brain shuts itself off. It does this to make way for the part of your brain that is concerned with your survival. You think to yourself, if I hold still, will I live through this? You think to yourself, if I close my eyes, will it be over soon? You think to yourself, will I see my mom ever again? Or you think to yourself, will they make good on their threats to kill my baby siblings? If I am a very good girl, if I hold very still, if I do what is asked, can I keep them alive?
You do not think to yourself, “Get off me you fucker.” You do not think to yourself, “I have a right to have you not do this.”
No. That comes later.
A rapist’s potential should never be taken into concern when sentencing. The judge, Judge Aaron Persky, decided that the rapist would never commit rape again. The rapist just had too much potential for this one incident to ruin his life. He sentenced the rapist to six months, of which three will likely be served.
Ironically, had he sentenced the rapist to six years in jail, the news would likely not have blown up and the rapist would’ve lived his life in relative anonymity once his jail term was over. Instead, justice was not served by the courts. In the court of the media, justice came to find Brock Turner. The only way he can salvage his humanity now is to dedicate his life to educating men not to rape. He can go to schools and talk about how he raped a woman, how consent is so important. He can stop blaming it on binge drinking culture, and instead say he is a rapist, and he is sorry. He can help raise funds for victim services. He can atone by preventing rapes through using his voice for good – but to do that, he’s got to stop being an apologist. He can call out his father for his horrible excuses. It will take a lifetime.
But that judge has to go.
There are so many petitions for this judge to be removed. His colleagues say that his judgements have been fair and balanced. I’d like to see some statistics. How many rape cases has he tried? What was the sentence in each case? What factors impacted the sentence? In every case. I want the judge tried – I want him to explain how he feels six months is an adequate time. Because Brock has ruined his life, and Judge Persky has contributed to that ruination. Judge Persky, through deciding that a rapist’s potential swimming career is more valuable than a woman’s bodily autonomy, has sent a message to the women who are being victimized now. That message is simple: the judge doesn’t care about you. If your rapist is an “upstanding man” – you will be blamed for your rape. If you wore a dress – you will be blamed for your rape. If you drank alcohol – you will be blamed for your rape. If your rapist can’t enjoy a good steak anymore – you will be blamed for your rape.
The message needs to get out to the legal community that if you sentence a rapist to a slap on the wrist, you will be removed from the bench. Your career will be over. If you sentence a rapist to a slap on the wrist, and an old man to ten years for growing his own pot, your career will be over. If you impose harsher sentences on property-related crimes than war crimes against the female body, your career will be over. His fellow judges need to stand up and say no. You do not represent us. You do not speak for us. In this way, the legal community can help end violence against women and girls.
Mothers and fathers need to show their sons this case, the twelve page letter written by the victim, the petitions against the judge, and the mob that will never let the rapist have a life again, and say, “This is what happens when you engage in rape. Do not rape. Consent is the most important thing. Respect other people’s bodies and their right to decide what happens to them.” Show them the words of Brock’s father. Tell them just how unimportant Brock is in this equation – he made a horrible decision, and he will now live with this decision, as will his victim. Tell them Brock’s father is wrong. Tell them you will always love them, and they must never do this. You will not be an apologist for rapists, even if that rapist was your own son. Teach your boys that enthusiastic consent is what matters, that sex isn’t a dirty thing to be hidden away and never to be engaged in. Teach them realistically that they’re going to want to have sex and that’s okay. Teach them that masturbation isn’t a sin. Teach them that sex should be experience shared with enthusiasm by both partners. Teach them to never have sex, especially with a person who isn’t their established, long time partner, when they’re drunk. In this way, perhaps the most important way, mothers and fathers can help end violence against women and girls.
And to Brock’s victim: thank you for your letter. Thank you for speaking up. I pray that the love that surrounds you helps you heal. I pray that your sister can forgive herself, as the blame falls squarely on your rapist and is not hers.
And to my Brocks: I worked for over twenty five years to forgive you, not for your benefit, but for my own.
It’s still a work in progress.