As someone who has firsthand dealt with the legal system when it comes to sexual abuse, sadly, the 6 month sentence is actually a bit of a victory. Most people will hear that and say, “What?” But the fact is, he got something. This case actually made it to trial. The evidence was actually processed and didn’t sit ignored in a room at the hospital for a decade. It was investigated and law enforcement carried through. Does that make a 6 month sentence based on his conviction ok? No. But that’s not the shocking part to me. Most rapists get nothing. Most victims are further traumatized and don’t even make it past the medical exam, an interview with a detective, or beyond sitting in a grand jury room being asked about every single position you’ve ever had sex in (and the trial is in regards to your child’s sexual abuse case and not your own…) In fact only 6% of rapists ever spend a day in jail. See that statistic and other facts of rape vs myths here.
The system is completely screwed up. That’s why, for years, I’ve been parts of organizations that work mainly with the legislative process when it comes to human trafficking and victims of sexual abuse. But that’s also why I know that even though the legislation is getting better that doesn’t mean the process is. That doesn’t mean victims of sexual abuse are any more empowered or strong. That doesn’t mean that it’s not all a complete disaster. So, I’m not at all surprised at the failure of the legal system.
Here’s what I AM surprised with, here’s the part that has left me literally curled up in a ball screaming into my pillow, what makes me relive my own traumas with abuse and the court system, here’s what has me left feeling nothing but intense fear and rage…
What the hell is wrong with everyone else?
I mean, I knew rape culture was an issue. I knew victim blaming was a problem. I knew that people are very likely to try to defend someone they know when they are accused of a heinous crime. I know. I do. I mean, I’m a female, who grew up in the Bible Belt during the height of the “True Love Waits” movement. If there’s one thing I understand it is that it is always my responsibility to not get raped. Except I don’t understand. I don’t understand how anyone could say those things. The last four years, when I finally stepped out of the abuse I was living in and began to heal and began to realize the excuses that had kept me there the main one was “I deserved it,” “I did something.” And daily I am still told by society that I deserve what I get.
As a single woman who has accepted as part of my career to be active on social media I constantly am blamed for the messages I get from husbands, from fathers, from perverted single men, from complete strangers that I don’t know anything about, from anyone really. Anyone is allowed to say anything to me at any time because I’m asking for it. Because I chose to work in social media, which apparently means I’m choosing to be harassed. Because I’m pretty and I dare post a picture of my actual pretty face somewhere. Because I’m in shape and dress nicely and look good, that doesn’t simply make me an attractive woman who takes pride in herself, it makes me a seductive one. So it means that I am at fault when a man messages me inappropriately when I have done nothing but post about my beliefs and opinions (on mostly Christian topics might I add). I have never once put out a FB post calling all men to hit me up, but you’d never guess that I don’t have “hey you” tattooed on my boobs as my profile picture based on women’s (and men’s) responses when I speak out about inappropriate FB encounters. A simple, cute picture of me, sitting on the ground, wearing long pants and a shirt basically up to my collar bone is the equivalent to a backpage ad.
Dare I call out a man and say he is responsible, it means that I am “not embracing the biblical approach to modesty” (umm what?) or that I’m “not accepting my responsibility” (to make sure that a man doesn’t drool over me like I’m a hot dog at a baseball game instead of a human being?) or I’m the dreaded “f-word” (feminist). Newsflash, I’ve been a feminist my whole life! I’ve been a feminist as I’ve been empowering women to be strong in their role as wives, as mothers, as leaders. I’ve been a feminist as every message I’ve shared has been focused on the growth of females’ roles in society and daring them to step up. But I guess that’s ok ways to empower women because men agree in those areas. If you try to empower a woman by daring to say that a man isn’t allowed to try to put his penis inside of you without your consent even if you’re lying on the ground passed out naked in front of him, or even to go so far as to say that a woman standing naked in front of your husband even begging him to have sex with her still doesn’t mean it’s not your husband’s responsibility when he sleeps with her… And well… The people are not afraid to make sure I am made well-aware of just how wrong that is.
It’s always the woman’s fault. Always.
So I am left deeply disturbed.
Because I look at the letters defending Brock Turner by family and friends and they are scarily familiar to me. I’ve spent a lot of time today actually vomiting when the realization sunk in. That these letters are not that far from what I see on FB every single day. Wives blaming other women for their husband’s wandering eyes and lustful mind. Men blaming women for their dirty thoughts and apparent insatiable sex drive and natural lack of self-control. Newsflash again, a woman’s number one goal in life isn’t to go around seducing all the men (but men don’t believe that, I mean, they still believe the girl working at the strip club is there just for him…) but here’s the deal, even if a woman is trying to seduce you, you hold the responsibility to your actions in that situation. And just like Brock’s family, we as a culture have been excusing men for way. too. long.
When we say that a woman deserves what she gets when she is harassed online by a man (something my own brother and pastors told me when I was completely disrespected while on Tinder even though nothing about my profile would have suggested I desired those things and that was my first interaction with this complete stranger), when we say a woman is seductive just because she is attractive, when we say men can’t control themselves around women, when we say men have no control over their sexual desires period, we are promoting rape. We are saying exactly what Brock Turner’s friend said when she typed in her letter, “Not all rape is because a person is a rapist.” Except yes, if someone rapes someone else, that does indeed make them a rapist. If someone does indeed cheat on their spouse, for whatever reason, that makes them unfaithful. If a man truly doesn’t have enough self-control to pass by a female without humping her, that makes him an animal. And if you can’t bring yourself to hold the perpetrator responsible then that makes you an enabler. And as an enabler you are responsible as well. We are all responsible for the role our message plays.
And with your enabling messages you are saying it’s ok. It’s understandable. It “is what it is”. You are enabling rapists to rape. You are enabling spouses to cheat. You are enabling men to not use self-control (and, in case you didn’t know, women have sexual urges too. Like, strong ones. How is it that we can sit here and say that we are required to have so much self-control that we can’t even think about sex, but men don’t even know what to do with themselves when a girl walks by and waves at him?)
Daily, I am entangled in a web of the “you asked for it” rhetoric, but with this particular case in the limelight, with the blatant disregard Brock’s family and friends have towards the autonomy and physical being of other humans, maybe I assumed that it would open a few eyes. That when they saw parents defending their son who was convicted of penetrating a woman who was passed out behind a dumpster while witnesses intervened, that maybe, maybe they would see the absolute ignorance and harm of these statements. I mean, if you can look at a father calling his son’s violation of a human being “20 minutes of action” and not reevaluate your personal moral compass I don’t know what else is going to make you do it. If you can look at a mother say that prison would “ruin his life” and how unfair, unfair, it would be for him to be punished harshly and not have your eyes opened to the stupid things we say that defend actions like this. When there is an actual FB page dedicated to defending these stupid notions that just because a person has too much to drink it means they deserve to have their person violated. In fact, they basically wanted to be violated because why else would they drink too much?
I can’t stop crying.
Not because he got off with a pathetically light sentence of 6 months (of which he will serve 3), because I lost my faith in fair judgement and actual justice long ago with my own experiences. But because, well, I can see now exactly why this young man thought it was ok to do what he did to this girl, that it is crystal clear why he has shown no remorse or sense of guilt over ruining her emotional and physical well-being. I can see it all right here. And I’m not convinced that a lot of the boys growing up right now won’t end up doing exactly the same thing. I’m not convinced that I won’t have to fight every single day of my life to keep my daughter and myself from having our very beings continually viewed by men as their “right” or the method of fulfillment to whatever urge it is they have that day. And I’m not convinced anyone would stand up and defend me if I were violated in the same way as Brock Turner’s victim.