From a young age, I've found myself to be a very empathetic person. I share someone's emotions with them, even if I haven't gone through it myself. I don't know what exactly triggers this within me or how to stop it, but I feel it; I feel it far too much. I can find myself drained sometimes especially if the problems are very big and upsetting. I watch the news and videos of people in the Middle East dealing with horrific events and become upset and enraged, especially if children become the target. I try searching how to help online, whether it be donating or hey, maybe I can plan a trip over there or join Doctors Without Boarders or UNICEF. Every little bit does count to organizations like these, but let's be honest, myself and others can't single-handedly stop terrorism from happening no matter how hard we try or what we do. So when I saw the story of a Stanford rapist receiving only six months in jail and probation, I felt it. I felt it hard.
In January of 2015, a woman, her little sister and a friend attended a frat party thrown on the Stanford campus. She had already graduated from a different university and knew no one there besides her sister. After a few drinks, she blacked out and has stated the next thing she remembers after was waking up in the hospital. An officer informed her there that she had been assaulted. The abuser claimed both of them were drunk, but she still consented. He even acknowledged a back rub from the survivor and thought of that as a "yes." The young woman repeatedly stated that she was unconscious and has no memory of this happening. Thankfully, two young graduate students riding bicycles spotted the man and tackled him as he ran after they called the police.
Just this past week, his sentence was handed down. Prosecutors had originally asked for six years in prison for the crime stating that he was still a danger to others. He has not even acknowledge that what he did was sexual assault. Probation officers recommended six months as he doesn't have a criminal record and he's young. The judge agreed with the probation officers. He thought that prison time would have a "severe impact" on him and went against it. The man who raped an unconscious woman and doesn't think that it was sexual assault will only be in jail six months.
The young woman was then able to read her "victim impact statement." The entire read, though difficult during many parts, was compelling. She described her memory of the night and the suffering she endured in the aftermath. She went in detail of the questions and victimization the trial put her through. She asked the abuser and gave plenty of examples as to how he thought their encounter was consensual, how being drunk gave him a right to take advantage of her and how this could possibly be her fault and just false accusations. But above all, she showed her incredible strength.
“You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today."
It took me a good hour to read through the entire statement. I found myself stopping, re-reading certain parts and stopping occasionally. I don't really have the words to say how I feel. It just proves rape culture is alive and well. It proves that the survivor is still very much to blame according to the system and the justice system needs work. There's even been a recall against the judge in hopes of extending his sentence. This all comes the same week a study was published showing that half of college athletes surveyed had coerced their partner into sex. As someone who has dealt with sexual assault, it just all feels like another blow to survivors. It's hard to believe that we live in a world that grants a rapist six months in jail because it will be such a "severe impact." I know we hear about how 1 in 6 women women will experience sexual assault or 1 in 33 men will experience sexual assault, but how much longer do we put up with this? How much longer do we deal with these light sentences or no sentences at all? How do we combat this horrific epidemic?
"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. Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining. Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you."
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, please go to RAINN.