No doubt many of you have heard, and been outraged by, the outcome
of the recent rape
trial of Brock Turner here in Northern California. This case has highlighted
rape culture and the ways in which we as a society disregard the damage done to
victims and criminality of the perpetrators.
In a letter to the judge
of the perpetrator is quoted as saying that his son shouldn’t face harsh punishment
for “twenty minutes of action”. This statement hit me harder than all the rest
that has gone wrong in the course of this case. “Twenty minutes of action”???!!
This is so offensive I can barely breathe.
The decision to
sexually assault a person does not happen in 20 minutes. It must take a lifetime
of missed lessons about human kindness and decency. It must take years of ugly
ideas about women and their rights to safety and respect. It must take years of
warped impressions why we have sex and a blindness to the potential and
humanity of shared sexual experiences. It must take a learned sense of entitlement
and dismissal of others people’s rights or feelings.
To suggest that anyone of us could get drunk enough that it would
suddenly seem like a reasonable idea to assault an unconscious person is reprehensible.
This is not a miscommunication about sex! This woman did not regain
consciousness for 2 hours after being taken to the hospital. This was not even common
consensual sexual interactions! The woman had abrasions to her vagina from
having sticks and dirt inserted, not something one could reasonably assume would
be okay with someone. This was violence. You do not become the person who would
do this in twenty minutes.
Documents state that one of the two men who stopped the assault
was crying when he talked to the police about what he witnessed. That is a
natural human response to seeing someone violated. Most people in our world would
not have the impulse to rape, or sexually violate an unconscious person, even
in their worst twenty minutes. Young men do not need to be protected from their
worst impulses because most of them grow up without a desire to hurt other
people. I believe this. It is important to me to believe this.
We grow up together, with years of being shown how to treat
one another. Years of playing, communicating, collaborating and seeing each
other as worthy of dignity. Years to develop sexuality that kind and interactive
and vastly different from perpetration. And yes, years of learning that there
are consequences for hurting one another.
We as a society have to stop making excuses for sexual perpetration
and to start taking responsibility for raising people for whom perpetration is simply
incompatible with desire. It never comes down to twenty minutes. It comes down
to what one person believes is okay to do to another person. And they will have
spent their whole life learning that. We are teaching them. Which is why this
court’s decision is so devastating.