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I am outraged and saddened by the outcome of the Stanford rape case, but most of all I am tired. I am tired because this is yet another case in a growing list where the life of a privileged white man is prioritized over a woman's.
Brock Turner's statement to the judge has been released and is as disgusting as you might expect. While he does note that he has caused the woman he raped "trauma and pain" as well as "emotional and physical stress" he largely focuses on his own pain and suffering.
At no point in his approximately 1,000-word statement does he admit to rape or apologize. He talks about how one night ruined his life but never stops to think about how his choices that evening affected the woman who didn't have a choice.
Most importantly Turner doesn't take responsibility for his actions. He blames the assault on drinking too much and on Stanford's "party culture". He pleads with the judge to give him probation saying he will benefit society by teaching college students about the dangers of drinking. At one point he even states, "I want no one, male or female, to have to experience the destructive consequences of making decisions while under the influence of alcohol."
The problem here of course isn't alcohol, it is one person believing they are entitled to another person's body. I for one want no one of any gender to have to experience being raped and especially not to have to listen to how their rapist's life was ruined by their decision to rape.
This would seem obvious to many people but apparently not to Judge Aaron Persky who sentenced Turner to only six months in county jail, of which he will likely only serve three. This light sentence was out of concern for how prison will affect Turner with no concern for justice or keeping the public safe.
What a ridiculous world we live in where a rapist's speech in court focuses on how he's suffered as a result of the crime he's committed and the evils of alcohol. Where a judge gives him less than the minimum sentence because he's worried how prison will affect him. I seem to have missed the legal loophole where being a white, rich and athletic male means you can do whatever you want to other people.
This case is a reflection of larger problems in our society. It is a problem that young white men are taught that their well-being is more important than everyone else's, that they deserve success, happiness and other people's bodies. It is a problem that being a good athlete and having a potentially bright future are considered more important than justice and preventing rape. It is a problem that the lives and futures of young women and people of colour are never considered at all.
We see the same problems replicating themselves time and time again when it comes to sexual assault. Turner tried to paint himself as the victim, something we saw when Ghomeshi released his infamous Facebook post. Also concern focused on the impact the verdict will have on the guilty rather than how the assault affected the person who was actually assaulted. Remember CNN's coverage of the Steubenville rape case?
It is not only society but the justice system that is problematic when it comes to this type of crime. Defense attorneys attack claimants based on details that have nothing to do with the crime while the defendant goes unscathed. I don't think anyone asked Brock Turner what he was wearing that night or questioned his sexual history prior to that evening. Despite the problems with the justice system this case had everything it needed for a proper conviction; witnesses, evidence and clear-cut lack of consent, but it still resulted in a piss-poor sentence.
This is a problem when one in four women in North America will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, but only an estimated six per cent of cases are reported to police. This is no surprise given the abysmal conviction rate. According to the YWCA based on 2012 stats there are 460,000 assaults in Canada every year of which only six are prosecuted and three lead to conviction. There would be an outrcry if these were the numbers for any other serious crime.
Despite this we still aren't taking rape seriously. Dan Turner, the father of a convicted rapist wrote a letter where he referred to the sexual assault of an unconscious woman as "20 minutes of action." Fifity-five women have accused Bill Cosby of drugging and assaulting them and he has faced no consequences for his actions. Kathryn Borel was sexually harassed and assaulted by Jian Ghomeshi for three years and was told by the public broadcaster that it was just part of her job.
One positive outcome from this case is the survivor's letter has gone viral. It says far more than any verdict could and provides a perspective we rarely get to hear. She details the lasting affects of rape and what it's like having to recall minute details of a traumatic event and recount them in court. She holds Turner accountable and responds to his ridiculous court statement in the best way possible. She ends with a note to girls everywhere as she realizes the broader impact of her story.
What we can take away from this case is the hypocrisy in a justice system that protects rapists over victims. Hopefully it helps people understand the gravity of this type of crime and the affect that it has on victims. But an innocent person shouldn't have to suffer while a remorseless rapist gets a slap on the wrist just for the public to learn a lesson. It is not fair that these cases happen over and over and all we can hope is that it will lead to a tipping point.
As I write this I know there will continue to be far too many people who say things like "there are two sides to every story," "but they're a nice person" and other clichés when a survivor comes forward. Rape culture will continue to flourish along with rape myths and survivors will continue to be scrutinized while perpetrators are protected. I can only take solace in the fact that the world has seen Brock Turner's face and knows his name so we can protect ourselves from one more dangerous person who thinks he's entitled to women's bodies.
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