On June 3, those familiar with the Brock Turner case waited to see how the court would sentence the former Stanford student after he was found guilty of three felony counts of sexual assault of an unconscious woman. Turner's sentence turned out to be minimal — he is to serve six months in county jail. Many people immediately took to Twitter to post tweets about Brock Turner's sentence. Outrage and concern mounted as more information was unveiled about the case, including comments from Turner's father, and a heartbreaking letter from the victim herself.
Buzzfeed posted the entirety of the rape survivor's letter, which was presented to the courtroom, and addressed the defendant specifically. "You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today," the letter started, as the woman detailed everything she knew about that night, and everything she felt afterward. The letter is 12 pages long, and every single word has significance. It's hard to read, but important. And, as this one tweet points out, it's made even more devastating by the fact that, while Turner's sentence may feel like a slap on the wrist, it's still more justice than some survivors will ever receive.
In cases similar to Turner's, many survivors don't get the chance to look their abuser in the eye, and let them know exactly how far their damage has gone. By publishing her letter, people all over the world have a chance to read this woman's brave words, and realize that it's counterproductive to blame the victim for circumstances out of their control.
But this tweet touches on the fact that even with this kind of justice, the survivor still didn't get the conclusion she deserved. Turner's weak sentence means that he'll be back on the streets in mere months. This light slap on the wrist makes it look like sexual abuse crimes are not a big deal, and a minimum sentence is good enough to prove a point. Meanwhile, this survivor will suffer from the aftermath for much, much longer.
How sad is it that many rape survivors don't even get the satisfaction of telling their side of the story? RAINN, an anti-sexual assault organization, estimates that sexual assault happens to an American every 107 seconds. Many survivors are unable to stand up to their attackers. Many of those who do see their attackers walk free. The Stanford woman's letter to Turner heartbreakingly explains how it feels to be numb, and not even recognize your own body following an assault. And while these moments in court were so important for people to hear, she still ended up knowing that in the court's eyes, this crime was only worth three to six months in prison. In her letter, she writes:
"I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin two lives. You and me. You are the cause, I am the effect. You have dragged me through this hell with you, dipped me back into that night again and again. You knocked down both our towers, I collapsed at the same time you did. If you think I was spared, came out unscathed, that today I ride off into sunset, while you suffer the greatest blow, you are mistaken," the victim's letter read. "My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today."
While the internet has lots to say during times like these, it's important that we make it clear that we have had enough of attackers getting minimal time for serious crimes. While we focus on the attackers, we must also stand up for those who have been attacked — the real survivors of sexual assault.
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