Brock Turner forced himself sexually upon an unconscious victim in one of the most grotesquely blatant cases of rape this side of the 14th century.
In fact, the only reason he even stopped was because witnesses scared him away from his female victim, as he violated her behind a dumpster. They then chased him down, and tackled him—effectively citizens’ arresting him—until authorities arrived.
This case then opened a flood-gate of independent media attention when national and international blood boiled as he was essentially handled with “kid gloves” and paraded in the media coverage with his athletic title and yearbook photo leading the headlines. The headlines of his being charged with sexual-assault. Because he raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.
Tabloids and communities came alive with conversation, as we scoffed at the almost favorable presentation of this criminal in our popular media. Our jaws dropped in unison as he was presented with a six-month sentence—and was then granted an early release, after serving only three months.
Females around the world have unwillingly inherited, through the tear-streaked stories of your friends, mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and co-workers, nightmares similar to the one endured by Brock Turner’s victim. One-in-four means sexual assault is almost a mathematically assured part of your female human experience.
If not, you’ve most definitely experienced its sickening (and twisted) socially acceptable little brothers—leers, unnecessary touches in crowds, catcalls from across the street, assumptions on dates, unwelcomed innuendoes, jokes about promiscuity, and jokes about chaste disposition. As those who exercise their right to say, “no!” are sourly referred to as ‘frigid bitches,” and those who embrace their feminine sexuality are sluts. I know that that we have felt all of these subtle, daily, violations, in our bones, and they have shaped our existence, and paved the way for our sleepless nights.
Please, correct me if I am wrong.
But as this tragedy spread like wildfire through the nation, it lit torches in homes and hearts. The shadows of male and female co-existence were suddenly given audience throughout the internet as this violent crime resurrected triggers in myself, and many others. It rattled throughout social media shaking free the somewhat loosely battened down vaults of our most ghostly nightmares.
Through this exorcism of shadows, light was cast in the darkest of corners as men and women I know—and don’t know—spoke out in the wake of the Brock Turner Tsunami of moral corruption. Meanwhile his father stood by him and perversely justified his actions as only “20 minutes of bad behavior.” Heated conversations erupted on social media with such blistering speed it’s a wonder the cable lines weren’t sizzling with the heat of the social current.
We are twistedly familiar with the monster that is sexual assault. We have seen it, lived it, drowned ourselves in it, tried to forget it, tried to live with it as it chips away at our self-worth, and found ourselves rattled to the core, as it shook our basic human right to feel safe in public and in our homes.
Brave, articulate, self-aware, intellectual men and women empowered themselves and spoke out. They said no to white male privilege mandating a favorable treatment in the media and ultimately a favorable result in criminal court. They said no to incriminating the victim by judging their dress, level of sobriety and previous consensual relationships. They emphatically said no to using the word “assault” in place of its much more accurate charge of rape.
But I feel like we are missing the point.
I am not disputing the merit of these long overdue conversations surrounding consent. Although I am saddened that I live in a a society that needs to discuss whether alcohol or suggestive dress are justifiable factors for rape, I am thrilled that these conversations are happening, but still, my brothers and sisters, we might be missing the point.
While we have said no a million times before—both heard and unheard—we have yet to say yes.
We need take a deep breath and rip off the bandage in order to say yes to ourselves and to each other. Because, to varying degrees, you have lived this and, yes, so have I.
The support groups—despite the numbers indicating almost each and every female in North America could potentially see some benefit from some type of trauma counseling—are not brimming with female survivors as one might expect. We still speak in hushed voices about our experiences and pretty much no one, reports their assault to the police. The stigma around this type of trauma needs to be dropped. We need to acknowledge the darkness we have all most certainly seen, and felt.
Let’s shed light on this topic too taboo for the table; for when we shine our light, we extradite the shadow. Let’s encourage each other to talk, to listen and to get the support we need. Please, talk as candidly or as privately as you need and encourage the healing of these generational stigmas and wounds.
Let’s say yes to embracing our sexuality, whatever that may mean—and yes to eliminating the toxic, divisive behaviors of slut shaming and judging. If we want them to hear our no, we must stand together say yes…to each other.
I hope you hear me loud and clear when I say I see your pain. I recognize and hold sacred that you have leaned into sharing this space and conversation with me. I know you have nodded “yes” at least once by now. I acknowledge and hold space in my heart for the fear, frustration and loneliness you have felt when the darkest of demons has been brought to your doorstep. And, if you don’t yet know it, what happened to you is real and it is not your fault.
You will not have to walk this alone. You do not have to sweep this under the rug.
Yes, it is time to herald change.
Yes, Brock Turners of the world, your days are numbered.
Author: Elyse Sinclair
Image: Flickr/Steve Browne
Editor: Travis May