What We Should Take Away From The Stanford Rape Case And Its Victim

What We Should Take Away From The Stanford Rape Case And Its Victim

"Be careful, be a good friend, and be an advocate."
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By now, we've all heard about the Stanford rapist (oh, wait, but remember he's also a swimmer. That's an important tidbit to add, right?).

By now, we've all read the statement by his victim, a nameless, faceless young woman. Nameless and faceless like many other rape victims have felt.

By now, all of us are angry. We're scared. We have a tornado of emotions swirling around inside of us, on behalf of the victim and other victims we may know; because of the ignorance of the rapist – because that is what he is. I will not perpetuate the idea that his athletic prowess makes him anything more than the criminal he is - and his father's ludicrous statements.

We have a multitude of options. We can sit here and continue to blast the media for painting young women who drink and who dress a certain way "guilty" for their own rape; continue to berate the assailant and his father for their selfish, ridiculous behavior. We continue to belittle the judicial system with their lessened sentence of six months (three with good behavior) in prison for a 20-year-old man because he has Olympic aspirations or whatever reason they used to justify it, but where will that get us?

Right back here. On our social media accounts, the Odyssey and other online news sources, in the comments section, complaining and yelling at a brick wall. We scream and shout for change - change in attitudes, change in perception, change, change, change - but we are only tiring out our lungs for shouting and our fingers for typing. Change comes not with how many hate words you can type a minute, but with an alteration of your own behavior impacting someone else, and maybe even a society.

We live in a culture where certain people are given a pass because of their gender, while others are told to cover up because of their gender. But, we don't live in a world where the only people that rape others are men and the only people who get raped are women. Is this controversial? Yes. Is it a lie? No.

The point is to make sure situations like this one – the Stanford rapist and his victim, the media circus, the trial, and the act itself – stop happening. How?

I'm not here to say to everyone to stop drinking, stop partying, ladies stop wearing short skirts, and boys stop "being boys." None of that should be a "cause" when it comes to sexual assault. What causes rape? A rapist, plain and simple.

I'm saying we need to be consciously aware that things like this happen, and not just when the media blows up about it. It shouldn't take a (now infamous) swimmer from a prestigious university who got "20 minutes of action" being the man in question for the courts, the media, and us as individuals to care about this issue. It happens more often than we would like to think. And that's the key. We don't like think about it, not until its being shoved down our throats every time we open our Facebook page.

So think about it. After the tornado blows over, after the dust has settled, because eventually this too will fade out of the media spotlight. Remember it, because you know the victim, her family, and yes, even the rapist with the same name as a character from Pokemon, will always remember it. Be aware that these things can happen, and if you are coherent and able - unlike this poor girl - to remove yourself from a situation before it's too late, do it. If you are a friend, relative or significant other to a person who has had this happen to them, be there for them when they need you and give them space if they don't. If you are a friend of someone who, even if sincerely unintentionally, could find themselves in a situation where they are the pursuer, watch out for them, too.

If you are someone who has never known what it's like to endure a type of pain and suffering while still living day in and day out like victims of sexual assault, and you claim to truly care about the issue, speak up. That doesn't just mean sharing this to your Facebook wall, (anyone can click a button) but show in your actions that you care.

Remember this.

Be careful, be a good friend, and be an advocate, if you really do care as much as your Twitter page would suggest. Put the words in the comments section into action, and do not be a bystander. Be a Swede, for goodness sake. Be a voice of reason; a good influence. Be a teacher. Be a hero for your generation and generations to come. But above all else, do your best to be a good person. And if you are a good person, you'll never have to ask what that entails.

Cover Image Credit: nbcnews.com

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No, I Don't Have To Tell You I'm Trans Before Dating You

Demanding trans people come out to potential partners is transphobic.
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In 2014, Jennifer Laude, a 26-year-old Filipina woman, was brutally murdered after having sex with a U.S. marine. The marine in question, Joseph Scott Pemberton, strangled her until she was unconscious and then proceeded to drown her in a toilet bowl.

Understandably, this crime triggered a lot of outrage. But while some were outraged over the horrific nature of the crime, many others were outraged by a different detail in the story. That was because Jennifer Laude had done the unspeakable. She was a trans woman and had not disclosed that information before having sex with Pemberton. So in the minds of many cis people, her death was the price she paid for not disclosing her trans status. Here are some of the comments on CNN's Facebook page when the story broke.

As a trans person, I run into this attitude all the time. I constantly hear cis people raging about how a trans person is "lying" if they don't come out to a potential partner before dating them. Pemberton himself claimed that he felt like he was "raped" because Laude did not come out to him. Even cis people that fashion themselves as "allies" tend to feel similar.

Their argument is that they aren't not attracted to trans people, so they should have a right to know if a potential partner is trans before dating them. These people view transness as a mere physical quality that they just aren't attracted to.

The issue with this logic is that the person in question is obviously attracted to trans people, or else they wouldn't be worried about accidentally going out with one. So these people aren't attracted to trans people because of some physical quality, they aren't attracted to trans people because they are disgusted by the very idea of transness.

Disgust towards trans people is ingrained in all of us from a very early age. The gender binary forms the basis of European societies. It establishes that there are men and there are women, and each has a specific role. For the gender binary to have power, it has to be rigid and inflexible. Thus, from the day we are born, we are taught to believe in a very static and strict form of gender. We learn that if you have a penis, you are a man, and if you have a vagina, you are a woman. Trans people are walking refutations of this concept of gender. Our very existence threatens to undermine the gender binary itself. And for that, we are constantly demonized. For example, trans people, mainly women of color, continue to be slaughtered in droves for being trans.

The justification of transphobic oppression is often that transness is inherently disgusting. For example, the "trans panic" defense still exists to this day. This defense involves the defendant asking for a lesser sentence after killing a trans person because they contend that when they found out the victim was trans, they freaked out and couldn't control themselves. This defense is still legal in every state but California.

And our culture constantly reinforces the notion that transness is undesirable. For example, there is the common trope in fictional media in which a male protagonist is "tricked" into sleeping with a trans woman. The character's disgust after finding out is often used as a punchline.

Thus, not being attracted to trans people is deeply transphobic. The entire notion that someone isn't attracted to a group of very physically diverse group of people because they are trans is built on fear and disgust of trans people. None of this means it is transphobic to not be attracted to individual trans people. Nor is it transphobic to not be attracted to specific genitals. But it is transphobic to claim to not be attracted to all trans, people. For example, there is a difference between saying you won't go out with someone for having a penis and saying you won't go out with someone because they're trans.

So when a cis person argues that a trans person has an obligation to come out to someone before dating them, they are saying trans people have an obligation to accommodate their transphobia. Plus, claiming that trans people are obligated to come out reinforces the idea that not being attracted to trans people is reasonable. But as I've pointed out, not being attracted to trans people supports the idea that transness is disgusting which is the basis for transphobic oppression.

The one scenario in which I would say a trans person should disclose their trans status is if they are going to have sex with someone and are unsure if their partner is attracted to whatever genitals they may have. In that case, I think it's courteous for a trans person to come out to avoid any awkwardness during sex. But even then, a trans person isn't "lying" if they don't come out and their partner is certainly not being "raped."

It is easy to look at the story of Jennifer Laude and claim that her death was due to the actions of one bigot. But it's more complicated than that. Pemberton was the product of a society that told him that disgust towards trans people was reasonable and natural. So when he found out that he accidentally slept with a trans woman, he killed her.

Every single cis person that says that trans people have to come out because they aren't attracted to trans people feeds into the system that caused Jennifer Laude's death. And until those cis people acknowledge their complicity in that system, there will only be more like Jennifer Laude.

SEE ALSO: Yes, You Absolutely Need To Tell Someone You're Trans Before Dating

Cover Image Credit: Nats Getty / Instagram

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A Truly Special Election

How I learned to care again.

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As I am writing this, it is August 7th, 2018. I live in Lewis Center, Ohio, where a special election is occurring to replace the seat of Republican Pat Tiberi, who decided to leave his elected position as a form of protest against Trump, Congress, and the failure of the federal government, in his opinion, to accomplish anything. According to the New Yorker, "The 12th District covers all of Delaware, Licking, and Morrow counties, along with parts of Franklin, Marion, Muskingum, and Richland counties."

I have seen people around me grow angry at this election. Angry at the evil other party, angry at their inability to choose or even care about who to vote for. Because of this, I sat down today to write a scathing piece about all of the problems with politics today. From the media that refers to the place I live like its a foreign nation to the people reeking havoc on social media, spreading lies and hateful speech, villanizing their neighbors, or threatening to damage a high school in my district. However, I no longer want to write about all that is wrong in this situation.

Lately, I have been disinterested in politics. I have grown tired after months of news that promises that every day is the end of the world. As someone who used to be so interested in politics and this country in general, there were so many reasons to grow apathetic. However, watching this story unfold as both a resident and in some ways an objective observer, I found that the disinterest came from the way politics in portrayed. Politics and the government is something that is yelled about in the media. It occurs on a hill very far away from you.

It took this national news story in my town to even realize that this is the beauty of our country. Even in the midst of government officials literally quitting their jobs, it highlights the fact that small places in flyover states can make a difference and have an impact on the nation.

It truly has been interesting, to say the least, to live in the center of national news. As what I would term a Kasich county, or a Republican county that had many write-ins and libertarian and other third party votes in the election, it will be very interesting to see how the vote turns out.

And I'm finally learning to care again about the result.

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