20 Minutes of Action

How long does it take to ruin someone’s life? I mean, really ruin, where the victim is a shell, eating and breathing and existing but not living. You think about how quickly you can swerve your car into the opposite lane, fire a gun…maybe 30 seconds. And you’re held accountable for that time. It’s short. But it’s real. 20 minutes? That’s time enough to commit a heinous crime many a time over.

Unless, I guess, you went to Stanford and were on a varsity sports team. Then you should get a free pass for committing a 20-minute felony! At least according to Brock Turner’s father, whose deliriously out-of-touch statements he made in light of his son’s conviction actually apparently convinced the judge of the case to agree with probation officers who suggested a 6-month sentence. “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” said the judge. Yes. Well. That’s the point. Prison is for people who rob, cheat, and kill. Brock Turner robbed a woman her own self-worth. He cheated her out of the peace of mind to walk alone in the evening, to sleep without a nightlight, to feel like her body — truly the one thing that belongs solely to us in this life — belonged to her. And he killed a part of the woman he raped that she cannot recover. Please read her words.

Now, I can’t completely fault Dan Turner for feeling this way about his son. Parents can overlook an awful lot when it comes to their children, and to see the life he spent the past 20 years nurturing take such a drastic turn must be devastating. But I still believe Dan Turner’s letter highlights another, deeper problem in our society as a whole: he places the blame for what happened that night on the alcohol his son drank. Does alcohol help situations like this? No. Does it impair judgement? Sure. What it does best, though, is it lowers inhibitions. Which means anything you do when you’re drunk is still you. Brock Turner going and speaking out against the dangerous environment binge drinking creates is great; it does not, and will never, take away from the fact that he raped a woman for one reason alone: he wanted to.

People use the culture of drinking on campus to excuse a lot of horrific stuff. But the drinking is a veil; it’s not the real problem. The real problem is that many, many men — especially young men— want to rape women. And a lot of them do it. Just last week, The Washington Post reported on a study that found “more than half the men who played an intramural or intercollegiate sport reported coercing a partner into sex.”

More than half.

Brock isn’t alone in committing this crime. It’s been done before and will be again. And I don’t know how to fix it other than our society needs to learn to value women enough to listen to them, to hold men accountable for their actions, to teach our children right from wrong by example. Either these men do not understand the pain they are putting women through, or they do not care. Or, I suppose, it could be both. I am sick to death of seeing girls and women cry because a man chose to treat them like an object or an animal instead of like a human being.

A shooter starts firing into a movie theater. 30 seconds. A driver confronts someone who cuts him off and shoots him. 75 seconds. A bank robbery. 10 minutes. Brock Turner rapes a young woman. 20 minutes.

Aaron Burr, so enraptured by his daughter, once wrote: “But I yet hope, by her, to convince the world what neither sex appear to believe — that women have souls!” Me too, Mr. Burr. Me, too.