On June 3, a letter written from a rape victim to her attacker was published by Buzzfeed and went viral in a day’s time.
“Brock Turner, 22, was sentenced Thursday (June 2) to six months in county jail and could be released sooner for good behavior,” according to The Huffington Post. “In March, Turner was found guilty of three felony sexual assault charges for violating a recent Stanford graduate outside a fraternity party.”
Judge Aaron Persky, of the Santa Clara County Superior Court, made this ruling based on Turner’s youth and lack of criminal history, according to CNN.
“The probation officer’s recommendation of a year or less in county jail is a soft timeout, a mockery of the seriousness of his assaults, an insult to me and all women,” the victim, whose name has not been released, wrote in her letter. “It gives the message that a stranger can be inside you without proper consent and he will receive less than what has been defined as the minimum sentence.”
Only six out of every 1,000 perpetrators will face time in prison for their crimes, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. For every Brock Turner that sees any amount of time in jail, 167 other perpetrators walk free while those they victimize attempt to continue living.
“Your damage was concrete: stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment,” the victim wrote to her attacker. “My damage was internal, unseen; I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice.”
The students of BYU-Idaho are not exempt from atrocities like this. The rapist, Brock Turner, is a white male in his twenties, not unlike a large portion of the demographic at this institution. The victim is a white female in her twenties, also not unlike a large portion of the demographic at this institution. They each led lives of normal college students until Turner’s decisions forever altered both of their lives. We can no longer pretend that these issues do not affect us and affect those around us.
While the amount of support for this victim and the amount of outrage at the outcome of this case is encouraging, where is the same outrage for the victims whose stories do not make national news? Where is the anger for those who suffer in silence, too afraid to even speak about what they’ve experienced?
One out of every six women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, and one out of every 33 men, according to RAINN. Think about that when you pass your peers on campus. Consider how these statistics may impact and influence those with whom you interact.
It’s easy to rant and rave on social media about how things like this are vile and inexcusable and how rape culture needs to come to an end, but words get us nowhere — these things will only change if people act to change them.
“The seriousness of rape has to be communicated clearly,” the victim wrote. “We should not create a culture that suggests we learn that rape is wrong through trial and error.”
If someone makes a joke about rape, assault or forcing anyone to do anything they do not consent to do, make it clear that those things are not to be joked about. Stand up against speech that teaches people like Brock Turner that their actions are OK or justified.
If someone tells you they’ve been raped, believe them. While it’s true that a small percentage of reports are false, it’s probably not your job to decide if that’s the case.
If someone tells you there was alcohol involved with their assault, do not try to pin the blame on their drinking. Everyone has the ability to make their own choices. While a victim may have chosen to drink, their rapist is the one who chose to be a rapist.
If someone tells you they’ve had a consensual sexual relationship with a person who later raped them, do not make them feel that the fact they ever said yes gives their rapist a never-ending green light. If someone tells you they cannot remember their rape, do not make them feel like that means it never happened. That victim will always, always know it happened.
If someone tells you the police did not take them seriously or made them question their experiences, you take them seriously.
If someone tells you they do not understand how their rapist can just walk free after wreaking such carnage on their peace, security and soul, mourn with them. Do not try to rationalize why things are the way they are. Agree that it is unjust and mourn with them for all that they have lost.
Rape can happen to anyone, anywhere, of any social class. Rapists are not just hooded figures in dark alleys. They’re people we trust and believe could do no harm.
Eighty percent of rape victims know their attacker, according to RAINN.
If you think rape could never happen to you or someone you know, you’re wrong.
If you think no one you know is capable of being a rapist and doing something so heinous, you’re wrong. We need to face these realities if we ever hope to change them.