Don’t tell me I’m ‘promising’

I don’t even know how to start.

Above is the description given to you by Google when you type the name ‘Brock Turner’ into the search engine. Below is that given about Trayvon Martin.

Trayvon Martin was a 17 year old boy, an avid footballer, a potential future aircraft pilot, a potential future student at either the University of Miami, or Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

Brock Turner is a rapist.

One of them is ‘promising’. One of them is dead.

I’m finding it hard to find the words to say what I want to say right now. I’m angry, I’m disappointed, I’m frustrated, I’m scared, but mostly I’m just sad.

In England and Wales, there are approximately 11 acts of rape being committed every hour. That’s almost one every five minutes, and that’s just the reported cases. Brock Turner’s victim chose to keep her identity hidden, and with good reason. There is an increasingly noticeable trend of absolving criminals and vilifying victims based solely on irrelevant information. Was she drunk? Was she wearing a short skirt? Did she have a condom in her purse? These questions and many others are the type of things asked of a victim in the wake of a rape accusation, not just by random trolls on the internet, but also by a court of law. Apparently it’s relevant whether or not a woman has had a drink on a night before someone decides to rape her, and that, in its own right, gives skeptics headroom to judge and cast doubts on her accusations. Brock Turner, however, was sporty. Good lad. How heartless of that young girl to ruin that for him.

The way we talk about rape is a part of rape culture. The second we allow ourselves to think about the victims actions prior to the crime rather than focusing on the criminal activity itself, we are, at least in part, condoning the crime. Making excuses and providing loopholes through which a rapist can squeeze his or her putrid carcass in order to avoid an adequate sentence is rape culture. By calling Brock Turner ‘promising’ in our first description of him is to say that that’s the thing we should focus on, rather than the fact that he has caused severe and potentially permanent psychological damage to an impressionable young person. Brock Turner’s blood was recorded to be over twice the legal limit in terms of alcohol percentage, his victim more than three times. Oh, and she was unconscious.

“You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me”

These are the harrowing words read by the victim to the man who violated her. I, personally, may never forget them. They are the words of someone who has had their ability to trust people absolutely shattered by someone who was once her peer. Imagine waking up and being told about the terrible things that had been done to you, and not even beng able to remember. Imagine learning how your night had unfolded from the bandages on your hands and arms and the debris in your messed-up hair. ‘Tiffany Doe’ didn’t wake up for three hours after she was found. That’s how drunk she was. Do you really think she could was in a state to ‘want it’? Sure, there may be a degree of ambiguity if two people engage in a sexual act when both are highly intoxicated, but I’d like to think that it’s pretty open and shut whether or not consent is given when the only person who can give it is unconscious. On average in the UK, convicted rapists are sentenced to just under 10 years for their crimes, and usually released after less than six. Six years, that is, not six months. Not every felon gets the Brock Turner treatment.

Brock Turner, and other criminals like him, have previously gotten away with their crimes because of the de-sensitisation of those that make the decisions and de-sensationalisation by the media and the general public of the severity of his crimes. Judges and lawyers have heard the gory details of sexual assault time and again, it requires no stretch of the imagination to believe that when they hear a victim’s testimony their brain follows an almost surgical dissection of the words, not so much listening to someone’s heart as it breaks but rather looking for sound bytes to help them win a case. Media coverage may attempt to lack bias, but then provide their audience with a detailed backstory on the person they are supposed to be condemning. This behaviour lands a person like Brock Turner with six months in prison, and then he walks free; but I am hopeful that this will not be for long. The ever-evolving voice of the internet takes its form in people like me who write tweets, articles, Facebook statuses, and refuse to stay silent until change happens. Being a ‘promising young athlete’ or an ‘All-American superstar’ does not make you less guilty of choosing to vaginally penetrate an unconscious woman. I don’t care how great your CV is, or how good you sounded on your personal statement. ‘Great with kids’ and ‘sunny, personality’ have never, in my eyes, cancelled out ‘rapist’. Turner is reported to have shown no signs of regret or remorse for his actions, nor to have even acknowledged that he was in the wrong. His behaviour, in all its facets, is despicable. Potentially ruining a young woman’s life is one thing, but looking her straight in the eyes and acting like you don’t even care is even worse. Turner, we can all agree, is a monster, but even more incredible is his father, whose entire stance on the affair can be summed up by his statement that a mere six month jail sentence was “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action”.

How a judge can sit in a court room and hear testimony of an assault like this, listen to the heart-wrenching words of an innocent victim, be advised by a prosecutor to sentence six years, and then proclaim he should serve just six months, ‘out in three’, is beyond me. This seemingly endless cycle of injustice simply cannot continue. I wonder perhaps if the sentence would have been different should it have been the judge’s own daughter or son reading aloud the things that were done to them? How then would the charge be different, should the judge had felt first hand the suffering and anguish felt by this young woman?

I could write for hours about the absolute devastation that rapists cause, but I don’t have the strength, and you don’t have the time. Brock Turner’s father wrote in his statement that Brock “will never be his happy go lucky self with that easy going personality and welcoming smile. His every waking minute is consumed with worry, anxiety, fear, and depression”, and all I have to say to that is good. I hope it eats you alive.

You may have noticed that earlier I referred to Turner’s crime as being ‘potentially’ life-ruining, and those words were not an accident. There may always be men like Brock Turner, but for every pathetic little man like him there are a dozen or more people who refuse to let rape mark the end of their happiness. His victim has expressed in her own words that she will not let one man’s vile intention control her for the rest of her life. She and every other rape survivor on this earth today deserve our utmost respect and attention for managing to hold on after everything they have been through. 33% of (reported) rape victims consider suicide, 13% attempt it. Whether you’re a Maths whizz, an English boff, a History nerd or an All-American star athlete, if you choose to have sex with someone without their consent, you are a rapist. Don’t call me ‘promising’. I’ve gone off the word. Promise is nothing if you can’t deliver.

Afterword

If you or someone you know has been directly affected by rape, the numbers that could save a life are below:
Rape Crisis UK & Wales: Freephone 0808 802 9999 (12–2.30pm and 7–9.30pm every day, and 3–5.30pm weekdays)
USA - National Sexual Assault Hotline: Telephone: 800–656-HOPE (4673) (available 24/7)

You can read ‘Tiffany Doe’’s statement here
Brock’s father’s statement can be found here

And I will leave you once again with a father’s final words:

“Brock can do so many positive things as a contributor to society and is totally committed to educating other college age students about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity. By having people like Brock educate others on college campuses is how society can begin to break the cycle of binge drinking and its unfortunate results.”

Nah, you’re alright mate. Jog on.