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A few weeks ago, my Facebook page was overtaken by articles about a man named Brock Turner. Brock Turner was found guilty in March for three felonies: assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated/unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person and penetration of an unconscious person (1). Brock turner was only sentenced to six months in prison, by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, which led to national outrage. In light of the events, many people chose to discuss Brock’s background and his fathers open letter, but I am not interested in focusing on that. I am here to write about the victim of the tragedy, the prevalence of rape culture in our society, and our broken justice system.
In a heart wrenching open letter written by the victim, she details the events of that night. It explains how an innocent victim of a horrible crime finds herself with a man on top of her while she is unconscious, half-naked and lying behind a dumpster. The letter walks you through her night; How she did not want to go out that night, but did anyway, assuming that it would be a fun, safe night with her sister; How the next thing that she knew was that she woke up confused and battered; How she tried to avoid the fact that she was ever raped, and most disturbingly, how she had to learn about the events that unfolded that night through articles on the internet. People online were throwing around statements, like “she liked it,” she couldn’t prove that it was unwanted, and it was her fault (3).
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. The number of women that are raped each year can be anywhere between 300,000 to 1.3 million, while 54% go unreported (4). This means that a woman in the United States has a 1 in 5 chance of being raped, while men have a 3% chance of suffering the same fate. While fewer men are reported as being raped, it has been found that 1 in 6 men will experience sexual assault before the age of 18 (8). Additionally, it is a popular belief that a lot of the rape claims are fake, however it has been found that only around 2% of reported rapes are false claims, while 97% of rapists are never punished (4). With these staggering statistics, one would think that universities would be working towards making campuses safer. However, only 9% of 11,000 schools reported any instance of sexual assault, or similar crimes. That number conflicts with the finding that 1-in-5 students get raped prior to graduation, which shows that there is a severe lack of accountability for this crime (6).
It is easy to find disturbing statistics surrounding rape cases, and they can easily be applied to the Brock Turner case. For example, Judge Aaron Persky used the excuse that Turner was young, and had no prior criminal history, therefore he should not be subjected to the “severe impact” that prison would have one him. Additionally, he stated that he did not feel that Brock Turner would pose a future risk to women (2). However, it is known that rape is often a reoccurring crime (5). Statistically, the excuse that the Judge used to justify the short sentence was completely inaccurate. Interestingly, the same judge that took pity of Turner recently sentenced a man named Ramirez to three years in prison after he assaulted a conscious woman. Some say that this demonstrates a bias in the verdicts that the same judge proclaimed, however there currently is a law in place that treats rape of a unconscious/conscious person differently (7).
Rape culture is a real thing, and the abundance of issues surrounding this topic proves that. However, it is an issue that people need to continue to talk about in order to bring about action. Far too many people are victims of this crime, and not enough are punished for it. Rape is never, ever the victims fault, under any circumstances, and there needs to be a shift in our culture that makes that clear.
Editor's note: We are not reprinting Turner's picture here, as we feel we've all seen enough of his face. It is not our hope to excuse him in any way for his horrific crimes, but rather to end the media fascination with him specifically as a perpetrator, and start a dialogue about what we can do to teach people not to rape, not to commit these crimes, and to ensure that if they do, they are not afforded the relative impunity granted to Turner. If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, or know someone has been, please do not hesitate to contact:
IATG Crisis Text Line: Text "GIRL" to 741-741. Free, confidential, and available 24/7.
"Scathing Letter to Father of Stanford Sex Offender Brock Turner Goes Viral."Scathing Letter to Father of Stanford Sex Offender Brock Turner. WAOW, 10 June 2016. Web. 04 July 2016.
Fantz, Ashley. "Outrage over 6-month Sentence for Brock Turner in Stanford Rape Case." CNN. N.p., 7 June 2016. Web. 5 July 2016.
Baker, Katie. "Here's The Powerful Letter The Stanford Victim Read To Her Attacker." BuzzFeed. N.p., 3 June 2016. Web. 05 July 2016.
Chemaly, Soraya. "50 Actual Facts About Rape." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 26 Oct. 2012. Web. 06 July 2016.
Hamlin, John. "List of Rape Myths." List of Rape Myths. University of Minnesota Duluth, 5 Mar. 20015. Web. 10 July 2016.
Kingkade, Tyler. "Colleges Are Likely Underreporting Sexual Assault, Senators Warn." The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post, 1 July 2016. Web. 10 July 2016.
Knowles, Hannah. "Brock Turner Case: Judge Aaron Persky Tackles New Sex Case." - San Jose Mercury News. N.p., 1 July 2016. Web. 10 July 2016.
"The 1 in 6 Statistic." 1in6. U.S. Centers for Disease Control, n.d. Web. 10 July 2016.