It has been two years since Brock Turner was indicted for the rape of a Stanford University student, and nearly one since he was convicted of felony sexual assault.
Despite two eyewitnesses and a guilty verdict, Turner refused to take responsibility for his actions, and instead blamed the “party culture” of Stanford University. Is anyone surprised? More often than not, campus rapists blame their actions on the pressure to drink and fit in, deeming them incapable of making coherent decisions.
Supporters of Turner managed to shift the blame onto the innocent woman who went out for a night of fun, had a bit too much to drink, and was violated in a yard.
“Rape is a criminal act whatever the circumstances. A woman riding the subway nude may be guilty of indecency, but she may not be raped,” said Toni Morrison.
“If she invites or even sells sex at 10:00 and refuses it at 10:45, the partner who disregards her refusal and forces sex is guilty of rape. If she is drunk, asleep, mentally defective, paralyzed, or dead she must not be raped. Why? Because sexual congress must be by consent.”
Yet again, but to no surprise, our judicial system failed us. Brock Turner assaulted an unconscious woman and received a slap on the wrist. A six-month sentence in protective custody, was later reduced to three for good behavior.
Naturally, the verdict caused immense outrage. Many believing Turner’s sentence was too lenient and further added to the notion that society is normalizing rape, so long as the accused looks good on paper, and the accuser does not fit the mold of a “victim.”
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As women, we’re programmed by many areas of society to blame ourselves in situations of sexual assault. Rather than understanding that no one asks to be assaulted, we immediately look at ourselves for an explanation. What could I have done differently?
Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to Donald Trump, recently sat down with Cosmopolitan where she discussed her experience with sexual harassment in the workplace. She was quoted saying, “You’d rather just pretend it didn’t happen, that it was your fault, or that it would never happen again.”
As we know, her boss was heavily ridiculed in the media as the result of a leaked Access Hollywood video (among many, many other offensive comments towards women) where he said, “Grab them by the p-ssy. You can do anything.” Conway responded by cosigning his reasoning that it was simply locker room talk, saying Trump is “gracious and a gentleman.”
I can only wonder how outraged these same contenders would have been, had Barack Obama been recorded having the same “locker room talk.”
It is this same mentality that sparked the Slut Walk movement in Toronto, Ontario in 2011 after a police officer was quoted saying that “women should stop dressing like sluts” to prevent the risk of assault. Had it been his daughter, mother, or sister suffering, would he advise them the same?
Last March, a Dutch woman visiting Qatar was arrested and later convicted for reporting her rape. Yes, you read that right. After having a few drinks at the bar, ‘Laura’ began feeling weary and later woke up in an unfamiliar place. After realizing that her drink had been spiked and she had been raped, she reported to incident to authorities where she was arrested and later convicted of illicit consensual fornication, as well as being drunk in a public place. The accused was convicted of the same crimes, and sentenced to 140 lashes. Rape was never an issue in the proceedings.
Another innocent woman stripped of her basic human rights. It’s not a women’s issue. It’s not a Black or white issue. It’s a human issue. Instead of continuing the pattern of victim blaming, we should educate men on the meaning of consent, teach them that too drunk doesn’t mean yes, and the length of her skirt doesn’t give up her right to choose.
Fight for the victim rather than the offender.
Perhaps if we did, more women would come forward. More women would get justice. More women would seek help in healing. Until then, I’ll continue to use my words to give others the voice they deserve. I’ll continue to speak for Laura, and the unnamed victim of Brock Turner.
In her book, Homegirls and Handgrenades, Sonia Sanchez wrote, “And I cried… for all the women who have ever stretched their bodies out anticipating civilization, and finding ruins.”