Not all women become lighthouses
I finally got around to reading the Stanford sexual assault victim’s statement to her attacker. I hate that I don’t know any other way to refer to her except as a victim. To be identified so broadly by something vicious that was done to you, rather than anything you’ve done or been yourself, must be unbearably dehumanizing.
The worst things that people do to us always make us feel ashamed. The worst things that people do always strike at the part of us that wants to love the world. And a tiny part of the shame we feel, when we’re violated, is shame at being human.
— p. 432, Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts
From the little I’ve learned by following this story and reading her statement, I know this woman must be a terribly strong human being. Just piecing your life back together and finding some semblance of happiness again after being violated like that requires incredible strength, I’m sure. But she had to re-live that traumatic experience every day and fight to have her story told and her experience validated because Brock Allen Turner and his legal team couldn’t wrap their heads around the basic argument she was making: consent does not look like a bruised and blacked-out woman, speechless and pinned against the concrete behind a dumpster.
On top of all of that, after a jury of her peers decided Brock Allen Turner was guilty on all three felony charges — which should have landed him in prison for up to fourteen years — the judge sentenced him to just six months in county jail. Justice.
The fact that a sentence like that passes for justice in 2016 U.S.A. is a fucking nightmare. She could have curled up in her home and shut her mouth and written the world off as a irreparably fucked up place as she tried to move on with her life. No one could ever blame her, or any other victim, for doing so. But she certainly deserves praise for standing strong, telling her story, and bringing attention to her case.
Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.
— Anne Lamott
This woman is a lighthouse. I admire her courage and her strength, and I hope she shines brightly, inspiring victims to be strong and judges to be fair. But it’s important to remember that she did not grow up wanting to be a lighthouse. This is not a job she applied for. It does not pay well, there is no prestige.
This woman was made a victim by Brock Allen Turner, but something special inside her gave her strength to be a lighthouse. She decided that fighting for this justice was more important than trying to just forget it and move on. She decided that, in the face of such gross misconduct by the judge who sentenced Brock, it was important to take a stand and let her voice be heard.
But not all women become lighthouses.
I say “women” and not “victims” for the same reason we say #BlackLivesMatter and not #AllLivesMatter. Just as black men and women in the United States are systemically abused and killed in disproportionate numbers, women are disproportionately the victims of sexual assault crimes in the United States. Opting for a more general and inclusive word or phrase not only distracts from the real issue, it sweeps it under the rug. I’m not talking about the occasional man who falls victim to sexual assault. I’m talking about the power structure that institutionalizes patriarchy and rape culture and makes women nine times more likely than men to be the victim of sexual assault.
This woman’s letter is amazing and inspiring and powerful. Everyone on the right side of the war should read it. I just hope we can all work together to make sure we never need another letter like it again.