Brock Turner will spend more time in jail than 97% of rapists, including mine.
Earlier this month, anger erupted throughout the country when convicted felon Brock Turner was sentenced to just six months in jail for a 2015 attack on a woman. Since the sentencing, letters from both sides of the courtroom have been released. Especially poignant was the victim’s statement which gave the whole country insight into how not only how it felt to be attacked that night, but how it felt to re-live the experience throughout the news coverage of the attack and every day of the trial. Reading that letter, I re-lived my own experience and marveled at the courage that it takes to confront your attacker.
Junior year of high school I was invited to a party by some guy friends. My parents were strict and would never have let me go, but luckily I knew how to sneak out. I made arrangements to get picked up by one of those guys and looked forward to spending the night with friends. I got there late, and the party was small. After making the rounds saying hi to the people that were there, I went into one of the bedrooms with a guy that I was seeing. One thing led to another and we had consensual sex. He left the room and I settled in for a bit since I knew that I wouldn’t be going home for a few hours and I was over talking to the remaining partygoers.
When I opened my eyes, a guy that I knew was standing next to the bed. He was someone that I had been on dates with and had known since the start of high school. When he said that he was tired and started to climb into the bed, I didn’t immediately panic. Fear didn’t set in until he got on top of me and held my arms down. The actual act was quick. I remember trying to bargain with him and begging him to stop. He didn’t say anything during, but afterwards as he got dressed, he told me that I liked it.
Afterwards, the only emotion that I felt was shame. My immediate thought was of what people were going to say when they found out that I had sex with two guys in one night. How could I have put myself in this situation? I felt like I did something that I wasn’t supposed to and I got punished for it. I was so embarrassed that it took years for me to say that I was raped, and even longer to come to terms with the thought that my guy friends likely set it up.
I never reported the rape. I couldn’t stand the thought of telling police and possibly a courtroom about that night. I was afraid of the judgement that I would receive, and even more afraid that no one would believe me. I instinctively knew that my sexual history would be called into question, and that school would be miserable as people chose sides and word got out.
According to a recent analysis by the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) my story is not unique. An estimated 54% of rapes go unreported. Of the attacks that are reported, only one in four leads to an arrest. How can this be when three out of four rapes are perpetrated by someone known to the victim?
The answer lies in how we treat the victims. In some cases, the victim is made to not only re-live the attack in graphic detail, but also to justify how she came to be in that situation. To defend her choices about her sex life, and to prove that she didn’t provoke the rapist by acting suggestively or leading him on.
The Stanford case is the start of a change. Although I don’t feel that justice was served, the outcry over the sentencing and the support for the victim is heartening. The realization for many people that statistically, they know someone who has been the victim of a sexual crime is sobering. Most people want to help, and want to shift the reaction to these stories away from victim blaming and a “boys will be boys” mentality. Here are some things that you can do:
- Talk about consent. Not just with males and not just with adults. Teach children that they have the right to say no when someone is touching them and that they should respect people’s decisions about their bodies. This analogy comparing consent to making someone tea is one of my favorites.
- Find a cause. It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of rape kits are sitting untested in police stations and storage facilities across the country. These kits contain crucial evidence that can help substantiate a victim’s claim, or clear an innocent person’s name. Find more information on donating and how to make a difference at http://www.endthebacklog.org
- Vote and get involved with local politics. Just this week in Sacramento, legislation was introduced to expand the definition of rape to include penetration with any body part or object.
I’ve never forgotten that night, and I’ll carry it with me for the rest of my life. Moments like reading the Stanford victim’s letter or when Facebook suggests that I might want to be friends with my rapist send me right back into that dark place. To be honest, I’m not publishing this under my name because I don’t want my family, friends, and colleagues to view me only as a victim. I’m moving on in my own way, and have come to realize that I can also be an advocate.