Trigger Warning / Disclaimer: I’m talking today about the Stanford Sexual Assault case. It’s a heavy subject.
A few weeks ago, mainstream media had it out for Brock Turner, the “Stanford Rapist”, in a big way. Most of the controversy around the case stemmed from the incredibly light sentence Brock received – 6 months in jail after he was found guilty on three counts of felony sexual assault.
The victim was 23. She wants to be anonymous, going by the pseudonym “Emily Doe”. She wrote an incredibly powerful victim’s statement about what happened — but then took it a step further. She read it, in full, to Brock. Face-to-face, in the courtroom. All I can say is Wow. That takes a level of courage I can’t even comprehend. Please follow the link and read her words. Again, trigger warning. This is heavy and graphic.
Public media on this subject was startlingly vocal about the fact that he received a light sentence. Oftentimes in these situations, media tends to side with the rapist, not the victim. I am actually impressed with CNN’s Coverage of the rape. Not too bad for mainstream media, but news outlets sure talked an awful lot about how he was a star swimmer, in line for the Olympics – a fact that made headlines when the Olympics leveled a lifetime ban against Brock.
Now, some people think he should be executed or castrated. I can’t stand this kind of mentality. Brock Turner planned and carried out a horrific crime against this woman, and he deserves to face his consequences under the law accordingly. I can agree that 6 months is a disgrace. It’s ten times shorter than that minimum sentence for the felonies he committed. I think the Judge should lose his job. I think judge’s should not be able to sentence solely at their discretion, and should be forced be accountable to minimum sentences. But let’s not mutilate or kill Brock. It’s real hard to hold the moral high ground on sexual assault and then call for castration.
However, the most disturbing bit, and the bit that is relevant to me and my blog at AtoZFamily, is the part where Brock’s dad defends his son, saying that it was “A steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action”, then going on to deliver a sob story about how his son will be a sex offender for the rest of his life. How his son’s life is ruined. How the justice system is heartless.
As a Father, I am revolted by this man. Your son was found guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt on three accounts of assault, and you have the audacity to minimize that into “20 minutes of action” and to complain about how much it impacts your son?
The thing is, I get wanting to protect your son – believe me. I get loving your child unconditionally , and I get that family in this world can sometimes be the only refuge where you can find safety without judgement. But there comes a time in any parent’s life where you have to admit that your child messed up. For most of us, this hopefully falls into simple things – your child pushed another at the playground or drew on the walls with crayon.
For some, maybe your child caused a minor crime or ran a red light. Most parents would scold their children for doing so. I know my mother accompanied me to the courthouse to pay my speeding ticket when I was 16. We laughed about it, but there was a edge: my parents knew that I had messed up and needed to accept the consequences of that action.
But Brock’s Dad doesn’t see that. He doesn’t see that sexual assault is a heinous crime. He sees it as 20 minutes of action. Read Emily Doe’s letter again. That is not 20 minutes of action. What was done to her was monstrous – a wound that will never fully heal. Now, anyone who can write and speak that eloquently about such a despicable and horrific crime is by very definition strong. She is a genuine bad–ass, and hopefully has all the support she needs to get through. But sexual assault just hurts. Regardless of how strong she is, she has a hard damn road to overcome the wound inflicted upon her.
So how… how… does someone get so messed up that they can rationalize doing something so vile to someone else?
Well, Brock’s dad clearly didn’t instill a value of respect for others in Brock when he was growing up.
And, well, we don’t do a good job in the country of making sure sexual offender actually receive consequences.
And, well, we view rape and Sexual assault as pretty laughable things – in fact, trauma like the one Brock caused is often the butt of horribly insensitive and triggering jokes.
And, well, our culture starts shaping boys and girls from a very young age to be pressed into a gendered box that helps shape and define their roles in society.
And, well, we criticize and blame the victim in case after case after case – for everything from what he or she was wearing, to their level of drunkenness, to where they were walking. This is called victim blaming and it doesn’t hold up the moment you scrutinize it. Think about it… what would you have to do to be “okay” with going through the trauma Emily Doe is going through? Is there any act or series of acts that any one person could do that would make them “deserving'” of such horrendous and devaluing treatment at the hands of a peer? Absolutely not, is my answer.
So what do we do as a society?
Well, parents, a lot of is up to us.
If Brock’s Dad had taught him to respect others – to learn what Consent is and to respect boundaries – that alone could have prevented this tragedy. What about cultural influences? If enough parents teach enough kids how to be decent human beings, then we can change that culture.
I, for one, am raising my Son to understand his body – inside and out. We talk about emotions. We talk about physical attributes of our bodies and others. We talk about space and consent. We remove the shame from body parts so that we can openly talk about them without uncomfortable feelings getting in the way. I establish appropriate boundaries around body parts, specifically in relation to anyone touching him, or him touching anyone else.
That’s not too young for these conversations. Consent at his age deals with how he treats kids at the playground – and how he treats his own body at home. But these behaviors grow up with him. Consent will never not be a part of our instruction.
In the same vein, acceptance of consequences is a part of our household.
Our kids are the future generation, folks. Lets teach them how to make a society that we can be proud of. Let’s teach them that a moral society, a just society, has no room for Sexual Assault. Let’s teach them to love themselves and others and to respect one another, and to never do anything without mutual, informed Consent.