I’m aware that in writing this I’m only adding to the chorus of voices clamouring in support of the bravery of the assault survivor’s statement given in the Brock Turner rape case, but it’s a chorus I’m happy to add to.
The statement given by the young woman is a moving, upsetting, searingly vulnerable exposé of the brutal horrors of a rape case. She somehow manages to express exactly what it is about Brock Turner’s defence and the sentence he was handed that was so repugnant. About his inability to accept any guilt.
I’m not going to rehearse the horrors of the attack in this post. (They’re laid out in full in the statement). But they were such that the cyclists who saw it were in no doubt that the woman was being attacked and chased the man when he ran. They were upset and traumatised by what they saw. Brock Turner still has the audacity to claim that his actions were the result of the woman’s ‘promiscuity.’
This is the word that really stinks. First of all, it’s such a gendered term. Second of all, it doesn’t even come close to being the issue.
But to rub salt in this wound, we’ve now seen Brock Turner’s father’s statement in which he argues that ’20 minutes of action’ don’t constitute a six-month sentence. Out of interest, I might wonder how long Mr Turner thinks a sexual assault needs to be to warrant jail time. Over an hour? What about a murder? A theft? If you steal something in less than sixty seconds, is that fair game?
Now, I’m not one for long custodial sentences for the sake of it. But, what really stinks is the reasons why Brock Turner’s punishment is the prison equivalent of a stern tut and a tap on the wrist. Because he’s a nice, middle-class white boy who had a place at a top university and he was really good at swimming. His dad thinks he’s a nice guy. His dad says he’s lost his appetite. This all means nothing if Brock Turner does not regret what he has done. He still maintains that she was into it. Which, if you read the facts of the case, is – frankly – impossible.
It’s heartbreaking that in 2016 anyone could attribute this to ‘promiscuity and alcohol culture’. Does alcohol attract and enable rapists? Certainly. Largely because it discredits the victim. Any kind of vulnerable person attracts assault of this kind. It’s galling beyond measure that Turner’s defence is that he was drunk and it was an accident, so it’s not his fault, and that she was drunk and therefore this was her fault.
We live in a culture, even now, a woman can provide photographic evidence of an assault and the knee-jerk reaction is that she’s a liar and a manipulator. A judge can let a man who committed a sexual assault – and was convinced of having done so, beyond reasonable doubt – by a jury off softly because he sort of seems like a nice guy. Apart from the whole sexual assault thing.
What’s important here is the victim’s statement. Her voice. It ought to be compulsory reading.We need to work together – men and women – to make sure that people fully understand consent. Rule of thumb: if it’s true of a cup of tea, it’s true of sex. And ask yourself what kind of person wants to have sex with someone who isn’t awake and excited to have sex with them?