Recently, a man by the name of Brock Turner was found guilty of raping a young woman, and he was sentenced to six months in prison. Since that conviction, my news feeds and social media feeds have been rightfully flooded with outrage regarding the court’s decision in this case. I’ve been gathering my thoughts on this subject, as I have many, but I only wanted to inject my thoughts where I can actually add something to the conversation.
Definition of Rape
I’m not going to argue on a few points that seem to be grossly misunderstood, the first of which is that rape is a violent crime that occurs any time there is no consent for a sexual act, yet the perpetrator chooses to have sex anyway. A colleague of mine once argued that this strict standard would require signed affidavits every time you have sex. If you’re uncertain what consent looks like, then yes, you should have a signed affidavit each time you have sex. For the rest of us, consent is not hard to comprehend. The rule should be that if you’re unsure, ask. Flat out, just ask.
In the United States, we have the right to say what can and cannot be done with our bodies. As adults, we can decline medical treatment, donate blood, get a tattoo, but cannot be forced into any of these things. We also cannot be forced to have sex with anyone we do not want to, even if we’re already in a committed relationship with that person. Even if we’ve previously had sex with that person. Even if we started having sex with that person and changed our mind. It’s an incredibly simple concept.
Second, the victim is never on trial. Her character, blood alcohol level, promiscuity, or anything else about her has nothing to do with the crime. The only question that should be asked of her is “did you consent?”
It is disgusting how often these principles are attacked. “She was asking for it,” “she shouldn’t have drank so much,” “she should have just enjoyed it,” and many more comments are all too common when discussing things like this. If these are comments you use, you’re in the same realm as the rapist. Rape victims do not choose to be raped anymore than a murder victim chooses to be murdered. “He shouldn’t have provoked him,” is not something that is said when someone is murdered, so it should not be said when someone is raped.
We need a culture that blames the rapists, not the victims. Admitting to others that you’re a victim of something is an incredibly difficult thing to do, especially when it is something so personal, so damaging to your psyche as rape. Ever lose a game to a younger sibling or get tricked by someone you didn’t think could trick you? You know how you never want to admit they beat you? Well, that’s nothing compared to being raped. Not even on the same scale.
If you have a hard time admitting you got tricked by your younger brother, try to imagine how hard it is to admit you were forced, against your will, to do something so intimate and personal by someone you cannot possibly respect anymore (if you ever did). This person took something from you that you cannot get back, and now you have to tell person after person, as well as face your rapist again. You’ll be deposed, where attorneys will ask every intimate detail of your life to try to make you believe you did something wrong. Why would anyone want to put themselves through this, and then also be blamed by so many people around you?
She did nothing to deserve to be raped. Victims are the victims of terrible crimes. Yes, she drank a lot, but that’s not an excuse. Yes, women sometimes where short skirts, but that’s not an excuse. Yes, some women enjoy having sex with many men, but that’s not an excuse. Yes, many women like to flirt, but that’s not an excuse. There is no excuse for rape.
Decriminalizing the Rapist
The third, and this isn’t true for most cases, is that the criminal, Brock Turner, in this case was made out to be a victim. His brief lapse of judgment, as it was described, will ruin his life, or you know… six months of his life. Poor Brock, right?
Violent crimes, such as these, should not be punished by only six months. There is no extenuating circumstances that lead to this judge’s decision that would reduce the sentence to this little amount of time. The circumstances are this: Brock is white, wealthy, male, and the judge doesn’t believe rape is a serious crime. The judge, Brock’s father, and Brock’s friends fit into the category above who are in the same realm as the rapist. Rapist sympathizers, as they should be called.
Failure of our Legal System
This is first and foremost a rape issue, and I do not want to dilute any of my above points, but this is also an illustration of the failures of our legal system. Consider this: There are mandatory minimum sentences for many crimes, but most notably crack cocaine. These mandatory minimum sentences were established because the legislative branch did not believe that judges would make the right decision when sentencing criminals convicted of these crimes.
In this case, the judge sentenced Brock, the convicted rapist, to six months in prison, which is significantly less than a nonviolent offender who was found with 1 ounce of crack. How does that make sense?
Now, imagine Brock was actually Anthony, a black man attending Durham Technical College. Let’s say Anthony is a great swimmer, but he was born poor and black. All other circumstances the same, would a poor black man be sentenced to only six months in prison for raping an intoxicated white woman behind a dumpster?
I don’t think a poor white man, or a wealthy black man would be sentenced to only six months in prison for this crime. The crime is the same, so the punishment should also be the same. When it is not, and latitude is given to the judges to consider the criminal’s potential as extenuating circumstances, our justice system fails the victims of these heinous crimes.
I’m happy to have a conversation, but keep all personal attacks off of this site.