The internet has been consumed this week with outrage regarding the trial of Brock Turner a varsity swimmer at Stanford University who was convicted of 3 counts felony sexual assault and only sentenced to 6 months in the county jail for a crime punishable by upwards of a decade in the state penitentiary.
Evidently the trial was a classic blame the victim set up by the well compensated attorney hired by Turner’s family who was painted to be an all-American good guy. The jury didn’t fall for it and he was convicted. The judge, however, himself a former Stanford varsity athlete with seemingly similar racial and socioeconomic background, worried about the impact of a longer sentence on the convicted rapist. And so, the extraordinarily light sentence followed was in sharp contrast to what a young man of a different racial and socioeconomic background might expect from our judicial system.
Now twice victimized, first when she was raped and second when her behavior on the night she was raped and her character were drawn into question in a court, the young woman who was assaulted by Turner wrote a powerful letter that galvanized social media followers who were soon calling for the judge’s recall. The convicted rapist’s father countered the letter noting how just ‘20 minutes‘ of his son’s life had resulted in such a detriment to his well-being. He went on to suggest that his upstanding progeny take up motivational speaking on the the topic of alcohol and promiscuity on college campuses rather than taking up space in a jail cell. Not surprisingly, this sent the twitterati into an uproar.
‘Rape Culture’ and ‘White Privilege’ have been hashtagged repeatedly these last few days and I too am enraged. But, I am not here to talk to you about my rage. There are plenty of others who have expressed my thoughts on this brave victim, the entitled brat who victimized her, his piece of shit father, and a judge (no matter how neutral his prior rulings might be) who clearly was woefully imperceptive of his own unconscious bias in favor of affluent white males in rendering a sentence in this case.
I am here to express my grave concern about what to say to my children in response to this.
I don’t want my daughter to have to go through what this young woman went through. I don’t ever want to see her spirit wiped away by the most gruesome of personal violations and to have her reputation destroyed in the process of seeking justice. I want to provide her with wise counsel to protect herself from ever being raped. And by this I don’t mean the scary bogeyman rapist who lurks in the bushes preying on unknown victims; for that she will have a black belt in Krav Maga. Since the vast majority of rapes are perpetrated by known assailants upon known victims, be they long-term intimate partners or recent encounters on a dance floor, my daughter needs solid advice on how to avoid the Brock Turner types now and in the future.
Wharton Professor and author Adam Grant’s post on Facebook (pictured below) sums up the causes of rape exceptionally well.
And if these are it, then what can I say to my daughter to not play into the blame the victim stance that is so common in our society? I want to scream at her:
“Don’t ever, not ever, drink a single drop of alcohol, ever no matter what! I don’t care how safe the social scene appears to you. I don’t care how solid a crew your girlfriends promise to be. I don’t care if you are the legal age. You have no idea if and when you judgment will be compromised; and, since the Brock Turners of this world can’t be relied upon to exercise any judgment even when you are sloppy drunk to the point of unconsciousness just don’t let yourself to be vulnerable to the likes of him due to intoxication so JUST. DON’T. DRINK!”
“Ditto for drugs. Don’t expect anyone around you to exercise good judgment on your behalf. They won’t, especially if they are Brock Turner. Got it? NO DRUGS!”
“Don’t dress provocatively. No cleavage. No short skirts. Nothing that accentuates your femininity, NOT EVER! You can read about how rape is about violence, aggression and power rather than about sexual arousal, pleasure, and sex in the text books but in real life I beg you not to do anything that could possibly make you more attractive to the Brock Turners of this world. They are incapable of exercising control over their sexual urges and they will lash out violently and aggressively to satisfy these urges with bodies that are simply more powerful than yours so NOTHING SEXY on that body!”
“Ditto for flirty behavior. I wish a coy remark here or a sideways glance there could be just a fun, arm’s length interaction but to someone like Brock Turner it is like an invitation for sex even if it takes violent aggression to get it. So please DO NOT ACT LIKE YOU ARE ASKING FOR IT!”
“Don’t walk alone. You never know when a stranger is going to assault you. Wait you have Krav Maga for that. What I really mean to scream is DON’T GO ANYWHERE ALONE WITH SOMEONE LIKE BROCK TURNER! Especially if you have not obeyed my prior four rants about drinking, drugs, dressing, and flirting. If you do, you better hope that the non-Brock Turners are randomly riding by on their bikes or their skate boards to save you.”
And here I am seriously teetering on the edge of an unprovoked screaming fit at my daughter because my first reaction is not to scream at my son:
“DON’T BE LIKE FUCKING BROCK TURNER!!!!!!!!!!!”
“Nope. Not ever. I don’t care how she dressed or behaved, or how compromised her judgment may have been for whatever reason, or whatever fantasies have been imprinted in your brain from the media, or how our society tends to treat men and women differently when it comes to matters of power and sex and everything in between. You are better than that. You treat women-all humans for that matter-with respect. You protect those who might be vulnerable, be they male or female, young or old, drunk or sober, black or white, whatever their potential vulnerability may be. You stand up for what’s right and you squash all that is morally reprehensible. You be the guys on the bikes or the boards. You help. And unlike Brock Turner, his asshole dad, and this biased Judge you be the one who sets a good example for all the little boys that follow.”