No Photos, Just Words

In my blog posts, I try my best to maintain a neutral tone, regardless of the topic of my writing. It doesn’t always make for hugely compelling writing, I agree, but it’s often the stance that I feel most comfortable taking, even when I hold discussions with my friends in real life. This past week, however, I’ve been mad.

There’s a quote from Bruce Banner (aka The Hulk) in The Avengers that I’ve often liked to quote, jokingly, but now — it’s never been more applicable. “That’s my secret [Cap]: I’m always angry.”

Ever since I saw the Buzzfeed article featuring the letter the Stanford victim wrote to her attacker, I’ve been angry.

Please note: I wrote this blog post on June 6, so it doesn’t reflect all of the most recent developments of the case.

As a writer, I’ve been angry that such a letter had to be written. I can’t speak for her, or any person of any gender who has gone through the experience of sexual assault, but already — even on a more minor scale, when a person undergoes a harrowing experience, it’s already hard enough to live through it the first time. To have to recall it in detail, multiple times, over an extended period of time during the writing process, is agonizing.

As a woman, I’ve been angry that I’ve only seen women sharing this post on my social media feeds. And in the past week, without many responsibilities dictating my time, I’ve spent a lot of time on social media. It’s only been the women who have shared this post.

It was only on Monday, about two and a half days after the initial Buzzfeed piece was published on late Friday, that I finally saw three men on my Facebook newsfeed make statuses indirectly referencing the article or share the petitions that formed solidarity with the victim, or to call for the judge to step down from the case.

As a human being, I’ve been angry that such acts of blatant disrespect continue to happen, that so many thought it was acceptable to sweep Brock Turner’s rape of a woman under the rug because he was an Olympic-qualified swimmer. Columnist Clementine Ford tweeted this the other day: “I see a pattern emerging in rape culture that suggests women have a past, while men have a potential.”

This is not okay.

Why does anyone think this is okay?

Haven’t we always been taught, basically since we were old enough to speak, that we were always to apologize for any of our actions that hurt others? We were always told, if we hurt another person’s feelings, we had to apologize. If someone told us they had been hurt by something we did, we had to take responsibility for our behavior and accept the consequences of our actions. This pattern of behavior — hurting others, being told that we hurt others, accepting responsibility for the hurt we caused — has, supposedly, been taught to us since we were three. And if not three, then four, or five, or six at the latest.

We learned to accept the repercussions of our actions when we were little. If not among our friends on the playground, then with our parents. If we threw temper tantrums, we were punished with no TV, or no candy, or no privileges to play outside. This continued through elementary school, middle school, and high school. And in college, if you hurt a friend and didn’t try to patch things up with your friendship — particularly when it came to housing problems — you can bet that there would be a strained relationship somewhere down the line.

These examples that I’ve just mentioned, these stories and lessons that we’ve all lived through and learned from, these are trivial compared to the mental and physical damage caused by a rape.

Accepting responsibilities for one’s actions in Turner’s situation does not simply mean he should apologize for his actions. Even Elton John knew that, “sorry seems to be the hardest word [to take].”

It is not enough that Turner apologizes.

I’m not familiar in legal proceedings or any of the finer details surrounding court cases, but given that the average punishment for a conviction of rape ranges from three to eight years (some sources say the length of time may be as little as one year, others say rapists can be sentenced for life) Turner’s sentence of just six months of jail (as of June 6, when I drafted and wrote this post) is not enough. It is not enough that he will only serve six months in jail, that he will only serve three years on probation, and that men like Turner’s father are trying to pull the pity card by saying Turner “now…barely consumes any food and eats only to exist” or calling this rape “20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”

Given the amount of attention that has surrounded this rape case, it is about time that the dialogue surrounding rape culture changes its tone. Just as we have been taught in preschool to not blame our victim for feeling a particular way after we followed a particular course of actions, we cannot allow Turner, his father, and Judge Aaron Persky to push the blame on the victim in favor of rooting for the actor. The rapist.

I’m not usually angry about a lot of things, but I’m angry about this.

To the women who personally empathize with the Stanford victim, I sympathize with you and my heart goes out to you. Thank you for, as this woman quoted Anne Lamott, “stand[ing] there shining” for other women.

To the women who have shared the Buzzfeed piece and any subsequent news article following the development of this case, I am proud to stand with you.

To the men who have read and liked their female friends’ posts about this scandal, or have gone as far as sharing something relating to this event on social media (major shout out to Will Anderson from the band, Parachute, for tweeting this on day one), I appreciate you. Thank you for showing your solidarity.

We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go.

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