At his sexual assault sentencing, Brock Turner’s victim read a statement to him, to his father, and to the judge. She made the decision to make that statement public and it has now been read by at least 5 million people. I am one of those people. But if you are a sexual assault survivor, I would caution you before reading the statement. It is frank, brutally honest, and deeply disturbing. Those of you who have been through this do not need to be further traumatized or re-traumatized. For those of you who have ever questioned a woman’s statement that she has been assaulted, this is mandatory reading.
Once again, the legal system favored a privileged white male and compounded the assault that the woman initially experienced. Shame on it. Shame on the prosecutor and the judge. Shame on Brock Turner’s father who characterized his son’s actions as “20 minutes of action.” Shame on Brock Turner. I am surprised that any woman who is sexually assaulted seeks legal action. How many of us are as strong as Brock Turner’s victim?
I wish it wasn’t a given that our culture wasn’t a “rape culture.”
(http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/03/examples-of-rape-culture/ for an in depth definition.) But to put it simply, “rape culture is a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality.” So women end up seeing themselves as potential victims and men as potential rapists. Women enroll in self-defense courses. On college campuses, women can call for safe rides after dark. We have rape crisis centers and groups for survivors of sexual assault. Why aren’t we focusing on preventing men from assaulting women rather than putting the burden on women to protect themselves?
Why aren’t we putting time and energy into educating male identified persons about sexual assault? Why aren’t men talking to men about cultivating a respect for women as opposed to reducing them to sexual conquests? What is wrong with our culture that a college freshman can sexually assault an unconscious woman and believe that she gave her consent? How can anyone say that she was “asking for it?” Really?
Rape has been used as a form of power, control, and degradation forever. Rape is not a sexual orientation. It is a power orientation and there are no circumstances in which it can be legitimized. Nor can I think of any circumstance in which any form of assault can be legitimized.
My only hope about this situation is that it be able to trigger an cultural shift in attitudes about women, sexuality, and assault. That we may move from a “rape culture” to a “respect culture.” I can only hope that we as UUs, will be on the front lines of ushering in this shift.
Peace, Shalom, Salaam,