The Stanford Rape Case: What Does It Say About Our Society?

The Stanford Rape Case: What Does It Say About Our Society?

We still have a long way to go.
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Since the verdict in the Stanford Rape Case was announced, thousands have taken to social media to express their outrage. There’s even a petition floating around to disbar the judge that gave the absurdly light sentence. We can sit around and be angry and point the finger of blame all day -- at Brock Turner, at his father, at his family, at the judge, at the alcohol, at the victim, at our judicial system. But I'm not here to talk about my personal feelings- plenty of people have done so already and made their point. I want to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. What does this case say about our society as a whole? What do we need to do to change?

First and foremost, in relation to this case, we need to stop placing athletes on such a pedestal. There is a long and disturbing history of sexual assault by athletes. In fact, one in five college sexual assaults are committed by male student-athletes. Countless professional athletes have been convicted of rape and gone on to have successful athletic careers. We are so quick to condemn Brock Turner in the moment, yet we cheer for athletes like Kobe Bryant and Ben Roethlisberger, who have also been accused of sexual assault. When you look at how we as a society are so quick to turn our backs for the sake of entertainment, it almost justifies the judge's verdict.

We need to put more pressure on colleges to punish rapists. Though Brock Turner was expelled from Stanford, less than one-third of college students found guilty of rape are forced to leave campus. That means that more than two-thirds of campus rape victims are forced to live in the same environment as their rapist. How can we expect such young adults to understand the consequences of their actions if they aren't punished accordingly? How can we expect the victims to begin to heal when they could cross paths with their rapist at any moment? We can't. In fact, the lack of punishment is teaching people that rape isn't a big deal, which does nothing to combat the ongoing problem of college sexual assault.

This case also painfully demonstrates how far we are from racial and gender equality. Brock Turner's light sentence is the result of his status as a white, semi-successful male. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, black defendants face longer sentences than white defendants for the exact same crimes. Brian Banks, a former black football star, was wrongfully convicted of rape when he was 16 and ended up serving five years in prison. Banks had no prior criminal record. White male privilege, anyone?

The judge explained Turner's unusually short sentence by claiming that a longer sentence "would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others." The judge, and Turner's father, were concerned about the effect this case would have on Turner's future swimming career, and his future in general. Yet neither male mentioned the victim's future. She was just a silly, drunk girl, so of course her future isn't as important as Turner's, a privileged, white male. How sexist of us to think that her future should be considered in this matter, right? This case is a slap in the face to the fight for equality and to women everywhere.

There's one thing about this case that bothers me more than anything else- we are still missing the point. Angry Facebook posts and online petitions are a great way to express your emotions, but it does absolutely nothing to help the victim. If anything, the media attention is just one more thing for her to cope with. In a few weeks, we’ll all move on to a new scandal. In a few months, most of us will probably forget this case. But the victim will never forget. She will have to bear this weight every minute of every day for the rest of her life.

What can we do? The easiest, yet most often overlooked answer, is to step in. Say something. It sounds so simple -- of course you’d step in if somebody was harassing your friend. But would you step in if it were two complete strangers? 85 percent of people say that they would step forward to break things up. Yet as the number of bystanders present increases, the chance of someone actually intervening drops drastically. With four bystanders, the chances of someone taking action are a mere 31 percent. It's a common phenomenon referred to as the bystander effect.

We can teach our sons and daughters what consent really means. Just because someone doesn't explicitly say "no," doesn't mean that it's a "yes." Anybody has the right to say no at any point, whether it's "no" to buying a drink, or "no" to going further than flirting/dancing/kissing. We can stop slut-shaming girls for their choices of clothing- a short skirt or crop top does not mean she was "asking for it."

We can stop associating men of color with rapists and criminals. America frequently turns the other way when a white male is involved in a rape case, yet has no problem casting men of color as the villains. Donald Trump has referred to Mexican people as criminals, drug-traffickers, and rapists. We can stop joking about rape. Even though we claim to know that it is wrong, joking about it creates the idea that it's okay, that it's not a terrible crime. Most rapists will argue that it "wasn't a big deal" because they think they were somehow entitled to what they wanted.

The problem here is not just with Brock Turner. A large part of the responsibility falls on our shoulders to stop perpetuating rape culture. We need to reshape society into a place where every individual is treated equally and with respect, and where every individual is punished equally for the same crimes. We can continue to support victims, even when their case is no longer headline news, and we can continue busting stereotypes and breaking down the gender/racial divide.

Cover Image Credit: Fox News

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A Letter To My Go-To Aunt

Happiness is having the best aunt in the world.
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I know I don't say it enough, so let me start off by saying thank you.

You'll never understand how incredibly blessed I am to have you in my life. You'll also never understand how special you are to me and how much I love you.

I can't thank you enough for countless days and nights at your house venting, and never being too busy when I need you. Thank you for the shopping days and always helping me find the best deals on the cutest clothes. For all the appointments I didn't want to go to by myself. Thank you for making two prom days and a graduation party days I could never forget. Thank you for being overprotective when it comes to the men in my life.

Most importantly, thank you for being my support system throughout the numerous highs and lows my life has brought me. Thank you for being honest even when it isn't what I want to hear. Thank you for always keeping my feet on the ground and keeping me sane when I feel like freaking out. Thank you for always supporting whatever dream I choose to chase that day. Thank you for being a second mom. Thank you for bringing me into your family and treating me like one of your own, for making me feel special because you do not have an obligation to spend time with me.

You've been my hero and role model from the time you came into my life. You don't know how to say no when family comes to you for help. You're understanding, kind, fun, full of life and you have the biggest heart. However, you're honest and strong and sometimes a little intimidating. No matter what will always have a special place in my heart.

There is no possible way to ever thank you for every thing you have done for me and will continue to do for me. Thank you for being you.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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Abortion Bans Are Only A Small Part Of The Republican War On Women

These bans expose the Republican Party for what it truly is.

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This week, several states passed laws that ban abortion after six to eight weeks of pregnancy, before most women even know that they're pregnant. The most egregious of these is Alabama — the state has banned abortion except for in cases of danger to the mother. Exceptions in the cases of rape and incest were actively voted against by the state legislature. Under the new law, any doctor who is caught giving an abortion would be sentenced to 99 years in prison, and the woman would be charged with murder.

Apart from the fact that this explicitly violates the decision of Roe v. Wade (which is the point), this is only a small part of the slow but steady degradation of women's rights by Republicans in the United States. To anyone who believes that this is simply about people being "pro-life" or "saving the children," then tell them to look at what happens after the fetus is carried to term.

Republicans oppose forcing fathers to be involved in the lives of their children that were forcibly carried to term, desires to cut food stamps and make it more difficult to feed said child, cut funding for affordable housing to make it more difficult for them to find homes, cut spending to public education so these children can't move up the social ladder, and refuse to offer the woman or her child health insurance to keep them both healthy. What about efforts to prevent pregnancy? Republicans also oppose funding birth control and contraception, as well as opposing comprehensive sexual education. To them, the only feasible solution is to simply keep your legs shut. They oppose all of these things because it is, in their eyes, a violation of individual rights to force people to do something. The bill also makes women who get abortions felons, and felons can't vote. I'll let you finish putting those two together.

If you view it from this framework, it would seem like Republicans are being extremely hypocritical by violating the personal freedoms of pregnant women, but if you look at it from the view of restricting social mobility for women, then it makes perfect sense. The Republican dogma of "individual rights" and "personal responsibility" is a socially acceptable facade that they use to cover up their true intentions of protecting the status quo and protect those in power. About any Republican policy, ask yourself: does this disperse power or consolidate it? Whether it be education, healthcare, the environment, or the economy, Republicans love to keep power away from the average citizen and give it to the small number of people that they deem "deserving" of it because of their race, gender, wealth, or power. This is the case with abortion as well; Power is being taken from women, and being given back to men in a reversal of the Feminist Movement of the 1970s.

Republicans don't believe in systemic issues. They believe that everyone has the same opportunity to succeed regardless of what point they started. This is why they love capitalism so much. It acts as some sort of great filter in which only those who deserve power can make it to the top. It's also why they hate social policies; they think that helping people who can't help themselves changes the hierarchy in a negative way by giving people who don't "deserve" power, power. Of course, we know that just because you have money and power doesn't mean you earned it fair and square, and even if Republicans believe it, it wouldn't change anything because it wouldn't change how they want to distribute power.

In short, Republican policies, including abortion, leave the average American with less money, less protection, less education, worse health, less opportunity, fewer rights, and less freedom. This is NOT a side effect. This is the point. Regardless of what Republicans will tell you about "inalienable rights" and how everyone is equal, in reality, they believe that some people and groups are more deserving of rights than others, and the group that deserves rights the most are the ones "that will do the best with them." To Republicans, this group consists of the wealthy, the powerful, and the white — the mega-rich, the CEOs of large companies, gun owners and Christians.

So, who do Republicans think deserve power and give it to? People who look and think like them. This, however, begs the question: Who do they want to take it from?

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