Your sister came to visit you. Instead of staying in and going to bed early, you decided to go out and have a good time. You two don’t see each other a lot, and any time you get with her is appreciated. You have fun, drinking and dancing until you stop remembering everything.
Instead of waking up at home with your sister and a raging hangover, you wake up in a hospital, and the police officer next to you informs you that you have been sexually assaulted, raped by someone you don’t even know. This isn’t an episode of Law and Order SVU; this is real life.
That’s exactly what happened to the victim of Brock Turner.
As the case went to trial and concluded, it didn’t seem that the media cared very much about the rape that occurred. After his sentencing, where he was found guilty on three charges of felony sexual assault, the Washington Post’s headline read, “All-American swimmer found guilty of sexually assaulting unconscious woman on Stanford campus.” There were cries heard all throughout the media, speaking of his promising future, the way that this conviction would affect his life.
The same outcries were not heard about his victim, referred to as Jane Doe in the court room.
The now 23-year-old woman was criticized, blamed for her own assault by Turner’s lawyers, who questioned her without end about her drinking and partying past. Very few people talked about how this assault affected her, how she felt.
“I was pummeled with narrowed, pointed questions that dissected my personal life, love life, past life, family life, inane questions, accumulating trivial details to try and find an excuse for this guy who had me half naked before even bothering to ask for my name,” the victim said in statement. “After a physical assault, I was assaulted with questions designed to attack me, to say see, her facts don’t line up, she’s out of her mind, she’s practically an alcoholic, she probably wanted to hook up, he’s like an athlete right, they were both drunk, whatever, the hospital stuff she remembers is after the fact, why take it into account, Brock has a lot at stake so he’s having a really hard time right now.”
The victim blaming that occurred here isn’t just specific to this case.
In 2012, a 16-year-old student girl was raped by two Steubenville High School football players, Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays. Just like with Brock Turner, the boys weren’t called out for rape. Instead, their “promising” football careers and how much the sentencing would affect their futures was discussed.
The victim, who also chose to be called Jane Doe, was degraded on social media, told that she was asking for it and called a whore.
Why are women who are attacked and violated against their will quickly ripped apart in the press? Why are women told that they’re asking for it?
You drank too much, your skirt was too short, you flirted with him. These are things that are said about women who have been assaulted. It’s treated like a rare occurrence, like these kinds of things just don’t happen to people who aren’t asking for it.
In reality, it isn’t rare. The New York Times reported last year that 1 in 4 women on college campuses will experience sexual assault in their tenure there.
1 in 4 women.
This number didn’t get this high because people drank too much and that led to complications, like Brock Turner believes. His college speaking tour about the dangers of drinking attests to that and has helped to glorify a world where sexual assault is okay.
The number is that high because people are taught to not get raped instead of to not rape.
The number is that high because people who rape are praised for their accomplishments. They aren’t called what they are: rapists.
The justice system has proven that rapists will receive less time in jail than someone who deals with illegal drugs.
Over and over again, the system has proven that the rapist gets more protection than the survivor. It’s because of this that around 80% of rapes that occur to female college students go unreported, according to a study by the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, or RAINN.
Rape is rape. It isn’t “20 minutes of action” as Dan Turner, Brock Turner’s father, says. It’s a traumatic event that should be punished as such.
People who report their assault shouldn’t be destroyed in the press and made into lesser by the media.
The survivors matter too.