The following includes two truths and a lie:
1. One-third of women have been the victim of rape, stalking, beating, or a combination of assaults.
2. Approximately 30 percent of sexual assault cases are reported to the authorities.
3. Out of 1,000 rapes, 994 perpetrators will be incarcerated.
Can you identify the lie?
That leaves the third statistic -- the lie. But this lie can be quickly transformed into a truth by simply changing the wording. The truth is, according to the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), out of 1,000 rapes, 994 perpetrators walk free.
This means that 994 out of 1,000 rapists gets to go home, crack open a beer, watch television, hang out with friends, and think about which person he or she should prey upon next. 994 out of 1,000 rapists face no consequences for taking advantage of another human being -- a human being who will live with post-traumatic consequences for life. Meanwhile, thousands of people are spending years and years behind bars for minor drug offenses.
There is something seriously wrong with our criminal justice system.
If you don't agree, just wait. Remember Brock Turner? The Stanford guy who raped a woman behind a dumpster, yet got more attention for his swimming times? The rapist who somehow received only a six months sentencing? Well, in case you're living under a rock, he's been released after only three months. Three. Months.
Someone thought three months was enough time to serve for completely violating, altering, shattering another person's life. How do you suppose the victim feels about this early release?
In a letter that the victim read in court during Turner's trial, she addressed Turner and said, "Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice..." (Read the full letter here.) Apparently three months was enough time to make up for all that was taken from her. Her feelings and issues that have risen as a result of the rape don't just disappear after three months. She'll carry them with her for the rest of her life.
The same goes for two students at the University of Minnesota who were raped in 2014 by Daniel Drill-Mellum, a student and fraternity member. He was recently sentenced to six years in prison, which might seem like an eternity compared to Turner's pathetic three month consequence. As it turns out, more than just two women have been assaulted by Drill-Mellum. In her statement in court, one of the victims, Abby, explained that a handful of other victims (at least ten) contacted her during the course of the trial proceedings to say that he had done the same thing to them.
And get this -- he was known for assaulting women. In court, Abby testified that she hadn't known Drill-Mellum before the day of the rape--that she had been introduced by a mutual friend. Abby said, "I first texted a friend to come and get me, and then called another. The friend who earlier in the day, told me, 'I love Dan.' This friend answered the phone to me sobbing uncontrollably and said 'don't even say a word, I know what happened. He raped my friend too.'"
First of all, what kind of a friend lets another friend walk into a situation like that? Second of all, if he knows about this guy's rape tendencies, and all of the victims know, why was he able to walk free for so long?
Within the past year, I have watched two highly emotional, intense documentaries that illuminated the realities of sexual assault. The Hunting Ground and It Happened Here seemed to kickstart a conversation about the epidemic that has been sweeping across the globe for centuries. Yet, rapists continue to walk free or serve very little time for a downright heinous crime.
And guess what? Part of it has to do with us. Maybe not you or your friends specifically, but us as a society.
In both of the documentaries listed above, victims reported the first questions they were asked: How much did you have to drink? Were you drunk? What were you wearing? From there, attorneys and school officials decide whether or not they have a case likely of winning in trial. Many victims who would have testified have said they were told they didn't have a good enough case.
A good enough case? There isn't good rape and bad rape. There isn't rape that's only sort of rape. Rape is rape. Whether you're drunk or sober, whether you're wearing short shorts and crop top or a burqa, you have a right to your body. You have a right to justice. But so far, our society doesn't seem to agree. The fact that rapists can get off the hook this easily is absolutely disgusting. The fact that serial rapists are free to rape again and again and again -- the fact that they are free to make their victims feel unsafe, unfree -- is absolutely disgusting.
Chances are, you know someone who has been sexually assaulted. Thousands of people walk around every day, petrified that they'll see their rapist -- that it will happen again or that it will happen to someone else.
After Drill-Mellum was finally sentenced to six years in prison, Abby shared with New York Daily News, "I wish it was not shameful to be a victim of assault or rape."
Think about that. We live in a society that shames victims.
I just hope that by the time I have my own children this epidemic has curtailed. Because that's what this is -- an epidemic. And until we decide to fight for victims -- until we decide to acknowledge that rape is rape no matter the circumstance -- it will continue to be.