Dear Brock Turner: You don’t know me, but I know you.
And I believe you can change.
You don’t know me, but I know you. You’re someone I went to high school with. Someone I took classes with. You are high-achieving, excelling in sports or student government or research or some other high-status facet of campus life.
Maybe you and I are similar too. Maybe we have things in common. Maybe we both enjoyed high school. Maybe we both excelled in academics. Maybe we both had a friend who was sexually assaulted. Maybe we both saw how others said she was asking for it. Maybe we both chimed in — agreeing. Maybe we both shamed her, because that’s what people did. I know it’s what I did.
Maybe in college, you joined a bunch of clubs like me. Maybe we joined the same clubs. Maybe we went to the same parties. You have a bunch of friends, and I may have been one of them. You were someone I may have even trusted. You’re familiar to me, because — at least from where I sit — you’re just like the man who sexually assaulted me.
You and he have the same kind face and features. The kind of face that cracked goofy jokes. Based on what I’ve read, you both are easygoing. Both of you are close with your families.
You both took advantage of women who were drunk, waiting until we were unconscious to do what you did. Neither of you cared who we were or what we wanted. Neither of you waited to ask. For her, it took two men for you to stop what you were doing. But maybe, if they didn’t show up, you would have just kept going — like him.
The way you and your family spoke about the assault. The way the police and lawyers put blame on the victim. The way Judge Aaron Persky sentenced you. That’s all familiar to me, too. Years earlier, that’s why I didn’t report. Your face, your demeanor, your achievements — they don’t make you “look like” a rapist. He had all that, too. Who would believe me?
You are not an anomaly. You are not an outlier. You are not a monster, which makes this so much harder. I’m not an outlier either. Most people know a survivor like me, and survivors of other genders, races, and sexual orientations. By the numbers many people also know someone like you. You’re their friend as much as you were mine.
In a way, all three of us are the same, growing up in the same cultural stew that made it seem normal to sexually assault two unconscious, drunk women — and okay for me to shame my friend for having been sexually assaulted. Our choices are different but they lead to the same conclusion — a culture where sexual assault and violence are normal, survivors feel it is their fault and do not feel comfortable seeking help, and perpetrators have no accountability. You contributed to it. He contributed to it. I contributed to it.
No one can tell who might commit violence just by looking at them. But if we can make the norms and practices that hide and normalize violence — male entitlement, rape jokes, victim-blaming, and so on — unacceptable, then it brings us a step closer to making sexual violence unacceptable.
Sexual assault might be committed by one person. But sexual violence is about so much more than just the perpetrator and the survivor. It’s all of us — you, your friends and family, him, me. While we all contribute to it, we can also all transform it.
I know you. I believe you have the potential to change. I believe we all have the potential to change — our own behavior, and the culture we live in. For everyone’s sake, I know we have to.