I wasn't surprised to read that at trial Turner's victim was asked about her weight, what she was wearing the night Turner raped her, and about her sexual life, including whether she has ever cheated on her boyfriend.
I wasn't surprised to read that Turner's father blames the rape on "alcohol and sexual promiscuity" instead of on his son.
I was saddened, outraged, and disgusted by all these things, but not surprised.
Unfortunately, it is all too common that sexual assault victims are blamed for what happens to them, that perpetrators of sexual assault get minimal prison sentences (if any at all) and that sexual violence is dismissed and minimized.
But I was surprised by the outrage I have seen all over the internet about this case.
I believe with every fiber in my being that we can eradicate all forms of sexual violence. Men are not inherently rapists. People can learn to give and receive consent.
I also believe that we currently live in a rape culture. Where lots of boys and men learn that they are entitled to women's bodies. Where judges believe that sexual assault is "non-violent." Where fathers think their sons should get "one freebie" to commit sexual assault as long as they learn from their mistake. Where women who are sexually assaulted are blamed based on what they wore, how much they drank, or who they have had sex with in the past.
Sometimes it seems that rape culture is so pervasive it is hard to imagine how we can change it.
And yet.... perhaps something is shifting. Dare I believe that we are seeing a changing tide against rape culture?
CNN host Ashleigh Banfield spent more than 20 minutes of her show "Legal View" reading the victim's statement--providing a national platform for the victim's own words to be heard. John Pavlovitz wrote a powerful letter as one father to another challenging Turner's father's assertions that Brock shouldn't be punished for "20 minutes of action." Petitions are being circulated calling for the removal of Judge Arron Persky. Brave survivors are sharing their stories with friends and family in solidarity.
We should be outraged.
We should be outraged at the outcome of Brock Turner's trial, but we should also be outraged that the sexual assault even happened. Let's build on this momentum to find ways to do more to prevent sexual violence. We can all do better. Parents can talk to their sons about consent and teach them to respect women and their bodies. We can stop offering ridiculous abstinence only "education" programs and instead provide adolescents with comprehensive sex education--teaching them about the complexities of consent and communication. Colleges and universities can do more sexual violence prevention, education, and bystander training, so that it won't take Swedish heroes to intervene in sexual assault. We can demand that the members of our judicial system (police, attorneys and judges) be knowledgeable about sexual violence and hold them accountable when they contribute to rape culture. We can all work to become more aware of the ways we inadvertently support rape myths by making statements about what women are wearing or how much they drink.
Let's ride this wave and not let this story just become last week's news. Here's some ways we can keep this going:
- sign the Change.org and White House petitions to remove Judge Arron Persky
- share news stories on social media
- donate to your local rape crisis center to help them in the fight to end sexual violence (Pittsburghers can donate to PAAR here)
- volunteer for your local rape crisis center
- send love and support to the survivors in your life
- talk to your children, nieces and nephews, and other kids in your life about consent (there are lots of age appropriate ways to teach consent--don't be afraid to look for resources and tips!)
- thank those who are doing the work on campuses and in the community to prevent sexual violence and support survivors
- speak up when someone endorses a rape myth
- apologize and learn when you endorse a rape myth
- keep talking, learning, and asking questions
The best way we can fight for justice for this survivor is help prevent future assaults. We can eradicate sexual violence.
Britney G Brinkman