"A girl has a past. A boy has potential."
I read that line on a post regarding the former Standford University student convicted of raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster after a frat party.
Those nine words are probably the most accurate description of what it’s like for a woman to actively seek justice for being sexually assaulted. In all the cases made public, you hear about how the (usually) female victim has a history of going to parties and getting drunk, while the (usually) male suspect is facing life on the sex offender list and how he had so many hopes and dreams before some harlot decided to ruin his life.
That is the most ass-backwards way to cover a sexual assault case. And yet it’s how they’re all covered.
In the case of Brock Turner, the aforementioned convicted rapist, American media are painting him as some kind of saint that just drank a little too much and shouldn’t be punished for raping an unconscious woman, who is referred to as Emily Doe to protect her identity. His father refers to the rape as “20 minutes of action” and how Turner doesn’t want to eat steaks anymore because he’s so traumatized from being in trial.
Emily Doe probably doesn’t feel like eating her favourite foods either. Since she was the one who actually experienced trauma done to her body.
Turner’s female childhood friend is blaming the conviction on “political correctness.”
In her letter, she doesn’t seem to understand that any, and I do mean any, non-consensual sexual contact qualifies as rape. It doesn’t matter if it’s between two drunk people and one passes out, or someone is kidnapped and sexually assaulted—it’s all the same thing.
I kind of want someone, a counsellor maybe, to sit down and have a serious discussion with this girl, because it’s mind-boggling to think that she actually believes that.
I get that it’s difficult to hear that a friend or loved one committed such a crime. It’s hard to fathom that your little pal from elementary school or your baby boy did something awful to another person. But part of being a good human being is taking responsibility for your actions and not blaming the victim for something she had no control over.
In the U.S., that crime carries a minimum sentence of 14 years in prison, but the judge in the case figured that was too harsh and only gave the kid six months incarceration with two year probation.
The defense attorney spent his time trying to show that because she had completely blacked out and couldn’t remember anything that the only reliable source was Turner, who claimed it was consensual.
For the record, if your partner is A) unconscious, B) can’t remove their clothes on their own, C) isn’t giving you a very enthusiastic “yes”, or D) all off the above, it’s not consensual.
With the permission of Emily Doe, Buzzfeed published her entire victim statement that was read in court. Take 15 minutes and go give it a read. It’s a very powerful piece, and I’m glad she was able to read it out in court.
She points out that during the proceedings, no thought was given to how HE impacted HER life; rather it’s how SHE is wrecking HIS life. He did not have to be probed and prodded, with pine needles removed from private areas, standing exposed while wounds were documented. He didn’t have to wonder what on earth happened to him, only to read about it in a newspaper outlining all the gory details in an article. She’s not doing this to him—he did this to her.
That’s the problem, isn’t it?
For some reason in sexual assault cases people are more sympathetic to the accused than the victim. Whereas with other assault or even murder cases, the sympathy lies with the victim and the accused is usually painted as a scumbag. I mean, if a guy is convicted of aggravated assault and sentenced to jail, it’s NBD, because he totally deserves it. A guy rapes a woman and suddenly it’s so sad because his life is ruined.
There is no spin on this situation where we should feel bad for him. He violated an incapacitated woman and he should be appropriately punished for it. Not a fraction of what the punishment should be.
Side note: Although I respect that they don’t seem to want to be in the spotlight, I’d really like to see more coverage on the young men that stopped to help Emily Doe. They saw the rape in progress, yelled at Turner—who bolted, by the way—then caught and tackled him, and called the police.
We need more men like them in this world; ones that will step up to help and put a stop to violence being committed against women.
Aleisha Hendry is a proud feminist writer who loves cold weather, her cats, roller skates and righteous indignation. Follow her on Twitter at @aleishahendry