If You Only Read One Thing This Week, It Should Be The Stanford Rape Survivor's Letter To Brock Turner
Standing up to someone who sexually assaulted you is a terrifying thing to do, and telling them how much their actions affected your life, in front of a judge, is unfathomably difficult. Buzzfeed published a letter a Stanford woman read aloud to her attacker Brock Turner at his sentencing, and if you haven't read it yet, you should. In fact, if you are going to read one thing this week, it should be this.
Not familiar with the story? According to reports, on Jan. 17, 2015, a Stanford woman says she blacked out following a local party she attended with her sister, and woke up in a hospital, where she was told that she was sexually assaulted. On June 2, 2016, Brock Allen Turner, a former student athlete at Stanford, was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault, and was sentenced with a six-month stint in jail for his assault. If he shows good behavior, he can get out in just three. Many people following the trial, including those who have also been victims of sexual assault, have expressed concern that the punishment just does not fit the crime.
As for the Stanford woman's story? It's a tough read, but an important one:
"I made silly faces, let my guard down, and drank liquor too fast not factoring in that my tolerance had significantly lowered since college. The next thing I remember I was in a gurney in a hallway. I had dried blood and bandages on the backs of my hands and elbow. I thought maybe I had fallen and was in an admin office on campus. I was very calm and wondering where my sister was. A deputy explained I had been assaulted. I still remained calm, assured he was speaking to the wrong person."
The survivor goes on to say the incident didn't seem real to her, and she felt even more violated as hospital staff were documenting the wounds that she didn't even know were there.
"After a few hours of this, they let me shower. I stood there examining my body beneath the stream of water and decided, I don’t want my body anymore. I was terrified of it, I didn’t know what had been in it, if it had been contaminated, who had touched it. I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else."
Since she didn't remember anything about the attack, she says it felt like her word was suddenly less valid.
"I thought there’s no way this is going to trial; there were witnesses, there was dirt in my body, he ran but was caught. He’s going to settle, formally apologize, and we will both move on. Instead, I was told he hired a powerful attorney, expert witnesses, private investigators who were going to try and find details about my personal life to use against me, find loopholes in my story to invalidate me and my sister, in order to show that this sexual assault was in fact a misunderstanding."
The judge claimed that a longer sentence would have a "severe impact" on Turner, especially since he had a clean record prior to this incident. I would like to take a moment to think about how absolutely ridiculous this is. Yes, Turner might lose his titles and athletic credibility, but we're talking about a woman who has lost parts of her life. In her letter, she says she's unable to even go to sleep without the lights on. And sadly, this type of pain is something that many victims can identify with.
Reading the letter definitely makes it clear how much sexual assault survivors hurt, and how much is taken away from their lives after this abuse — it's something that everyone, regardless of age or sex, should read. It's a raw explanation of how it feels to be violated, and sheds light on why this crime is such a serious one. Nobody should get a pass if they've committed sexual abuse. The woman's words are powerful, and the way she depicts her journey after being abused is absolutely chilling. Through this letter, she was able to shed light on the fact that no matter what, those who suffer sexual abuse should never be silenced. Too often, rapists and abusers get away with their crimes by knowing their victim might feel too weak, or too embarrassed, to stand up. This woman took a chance and let Turner know — and the world — why his actions deserve the highest consequences.
These kinds of assaults are never the victim's fault. Nobody goes in "asking for it," but too many survivors feel as if they're to blame. This case proves that it's still a struggle for men and women who have been abused to see their offenders accurately get the punishment they deserve. At least someone who felt and still feels confused and violated knows that their words have meaning. They'll never be alone. They have a voice.