Why everyone should read the Stanford victim’s letter

Outrage over the light sentence given to Stanford student, Brock Allen Turner, has only intensified after the verdict was announced last week, as it very well should.

Turner is only receiving six months of jail time for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster over a year ago, which is basically a slap on the wrist for violating a person’s body without their consent.

What’s more unsettling are the comments stated by Turner’s father, claiming his son was paying a “steep price for 20 minutes of action.” Okay, sure, Mr. Turner, six months in jail is certainly overstepping the crime, unequal to the lifetime of paranoia and shame that his victim will have to experience. You must not have a daughter.

This entire case reexamines the tireless dilemma of rape culture. Women are often blamed for their own misfortune when it comes to rape for behavior and clothing that is ‘too sexy’ or wearing items that are ‘too revealing’. We get ‘too drunk,’ rip our clothes off, and throw ourselves on to unsuspecting men we don’t know.

Evidently, we ask for it.

But the result of this case and the response of Turner’s father clearly can indicate that this behavior from men is a learned one.

The most important factor powering the attention and call to action on this case is the victim’s statement to her attacker, released in full by Buzzfeed on Friday evening.

This woman remains nameless, as most rape victims are. However, for the purposes of this post I want to give her a name, because I believe she deserves to be called something more than “unconscious woman assaulted behind dumpster.”

I’m going to call her Audrina,  which means noble strength.

Audrina’s letter is over 7,000 words, but it’s worth the read of every one of them.

“You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today,” she starts her statement.

She runs through the painful account of the night of the crime, and heightened emotions of the morning after. It’s difficult to read without feeling uneasy, but it takes everyone through the detailed motions of what the experience was exactly like. You can almost feel the pain for her, although I’m sure none of us could ever actually come close.

Not only does she vividly expound on the event, but she touches on the misery of reliving the encounter over and over again in court while Turner tries to defend his actions.

Instead of taking time to heal, I was taking time to recall the night in excruciating detail, in order to prepare for the attorney’s questions that would be invasive, aggressive, and designed to steer me off course, to contradict myself, my sister, phrased in ways to manipulate my answers.

 When did you urinate? Where did you urinate? With whom did you urinate outside? Was your phone on silent when your sister called? Do you remember silencing it? Really because on page 53 I’d like to point out that you said it was set to ring. Did you drink in college? 

Those were only a few of the questions Audrina mentions in her letter.

And society wonders why women don’t bother coming forward about sexual assault. When the situation is turned around on the victim, it sends a message to women everywhere that they are the root of the problem of rape.  When it is HER fault that a man couldn’t control himself and is now facing significantly minor consequences in his future, it makes the rest of us feel like nothing can be done if, God forbid, it happens to us. The physical, emotional, and psychological pain that comes from rape and sexual assault is completely incomparable to the attacker’s experience, and yet so seemingly insignificant.

But this is where Audrina is a hero.

She did speak out, despite virtually losing her battle. Even with no direct identity, she has a voice.

On the other hand, as a society, we cannot forgive everyone’s first sexual assault or digital rape. It doesn’t make sense. The seriousness of rape has to be communicated clearly, we should not create a culture that suggests we learn that rape is wrong through trial and error. The consequences of sexual assault needs to be severe enough that people feel enough fear to exercise good judgment even if they are drunk, severe enough to be preventative.

I don’t know how often or how long cases like these have to happen for a solution to be set into motion to solve this rape culture and evident privilege. But I feel confident that this woman’s message will have an impact. I only hope that the courage she revealed and the influence she can make will bring her peace of mind, despite her own injustice.

I hope this serves as an example to encourage other women to come forward and fight for what’s fair. I hope this shows that words can be more powerful than the judge, more powerful than the verdict, and more powerful than the attacker. And as for men, I hope this explicit account from the victim’s point of view can give an idea of what kind of trauma assault can cause. I hope it instills understanding, but also awareness of the strength of a woman’s voice.

And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. As the author Anne Lamott once wrote, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”

With this letter as a spark, let more lighthouses shine.

Flickr - …trialsanderrors - The lighthouse of Fenerbahçe, Constantinople, Turkey, ca. 1899


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