Recently, while reading the news headlines, I have been appalled.
Brock Turner, a 20 year old former swimmer on the Stanford Varsity swim team, was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault against the 23 year old woman he raped while she was unconscious. However, the media, and the judicial system, are treating him as though he deserves special privilege. Why? Because he is an attractive, young, white male who is a talented swimmer. However, although he seemed to have a lot of promise, this does not change the fact that he is a rapist. He has officially been found guilty of rape, and yet, our media and judicial system are giving him a slap on the wrist in order to protect him.
The "All-American" swimmer was sentenced to six months in jail, instead of the maximum fourteen years, due to the judge fearing that jail would have a "severe impact" on Turner. Turner, however, deserves the "severe impact" that jail will have on him. His actions had him arrested, facing fourteen years in prison, and yet he was given six months. What will he learn from this? That because he is a talented swimmer that he will be able to get away with illegal and harmful actions such as rape? In six months when he is released from prison will he rape another unconscious woman believing that he can once again use his talent as an excuse to escape punishment?
Can I also ask why publications have insisted on using the above image to identify Turner? He is a criminal, and yet this picture gives him the look of successful athlete who has done nothing wrong. Why has his mug shot not used instead? He was arrested, and thus it only makes sense to use his mug shot to write about his criminal activity. The media has focused too much on how this case has damaged Turner's swimming career. It was not like Turner was in an accident, he chose to rape an unconscious woman and therefore deserves to be punished. According to the Washington Post, "his extraordinary yet brief swim career is now tarnished, like a rusting trophy". Yes, his swim career could have been extraordinary, but he made a decision that ruined it. He is not a rusting trophy, he is a trophy that intentionally chose to throw itself in the way of a moving train and destroy itself.
The prosecutors said that Turner "may not look like a rapist, but he is the... face of campus sexual assault". Do you know what a rapist looks like? From hearing stories from victims of rape, a rapist has many looks and personas. A rapist can be of any skin color and appearance. Rape isn't restricted to dark alleys and bars, rapists can be friends or acquaintances. So Turner indeed is the "face of campus sexual assault" in the way that he brings attention to the fact there isn't a single face to rape. It can be a person in your class, a friend you've hung out with for years, a significant other, or someone who asks you to dance at the bar.
And not all rapes occur behind dumpsters at frat houses. They often occur in dorm rooms, bedrooms, living rooms, and anywhere people can be alone. Usually, a group of people don't catch the rapist in the act and have the courage to tackle him until he is arrested. More often than not, people don't intervene, or don't have the chance to.
Although this case is an insult to the worth of all women and the legitimacy of sexual assault victims, I do have hope that this case and its horrible outcome have brought this problem to light. Sexual assault is an epidemic on our college campuses and in our high schools. It is an epidemic, that without the dedication of those who care about the wellbeing of our peers, will not go away. I am happy to see so many people sharing this story on Facebook, and I urge you to continue this passion in your own life. Learn about sexual assault. Join an organization that fights to stop it. Talk to your school administration about how to improve the rules concerning sexual assault and the reporting of sexual assault. Help your friends, and even strangers, when you see that someone is too intoxicated to consent or you see that there might be a dangerous situation. If everyone becomes active, instead of remaining passive and saying "yeah sexual assault is horrible, but what can I do to stop it?", it is possible that we can fight back against this epidemic.
If you have yet to read the letter that the woman in this case read to Turner, I urge you to do so. It is truly impossible to know what the victim of rape and sexual assault experiences until it happens to you, but by reading this letter you can get a sense of why so many people are passionate about this cause.