At Memphis Moms Blog, we love highlighting the joys and struggles of motherhood. It is our goal to not "stir the pot" or create controversy, and because of that, we oftentimes do not approach subjects that we find controversial or that might offend our readers. However, some topics just can't be ignored.
Something happened recently in our country that I just cannot stomach any longer. It's not something I feel comfortable just "sweeping under the rug." A lot of people have turned a blind eye, or even rolled their eyes, but it's not something I feel we as mothers should ignore.
And no, this isn't about Harambe the gorilla. We are totally not even touching that subject at Memphis Moms Blog, although our sisters over in Cincinnati did, and we think it's totally worth the read. But I digress...
On Thursday, June 2, Brock Turner was sentenced to only 6 months in jail (or 3 months with good behavior!) after being convicted of raping an intoxicated and unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Oh, and 3 years of probation. I have no doubt you've seen the outrage on social media. News stations and websites all over the globe have jumped on this story and covered every aspect of it, from the victim's heart-wrenching statement she read during the sentencing hearing, to Dan Turner's statement all but condoning his son's actions.
The long and short of it is this: Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky turned a blind-eye to the fact that this man both physically and emotionally traumatized an incapacitated woman. Why? Because he feared that time in prison would cause permanent emotional damage to the rapist.
Yes, you read that correctly: a judge decided that a rapist's emotional health is more important than his victim's emotional health.
I won't even go into all the theories that Brock Turner is being slapped on the wrist because of his athletic background. As it turns out, the kid was at Stanford on a swimming scholarship, which is something every single news outlet has made sure and repeat ad nauseam--some even going so far as to use photos of him winning championships in their articles and news snippets. Yeah. Because glorifying a convicted felon's athletic achievements makes a ton more sense than showing him for what he truly is: a criminal. In fact, it appears Brock's mugshot was never actually released to the press or the public, so most have resorted to using a beaming yearbook photo in its place. Hardly the same thing, if you ask me.
She was found breathing, unresponsive with her underwear six inches away from her bare stomach curled in fetal position. By the way, he’s really good at swimming. Throw in my mile time if that’s what we’re doing. I’m good at cooking, put that in there, I think the end is where you list your extracurriculars to cancel out all the sickening things that’ve happened.
-Emily Doe (Brock Turner's victim)
Again, I digress...
As a woman, as a mother, and as a human-being, I am livid. When I read the news, I trembled with disgust and anger. A wave of emotions and thoughts crashed over me, and it has taken me days to make sense of it all. I finally understand why my title of "Mom" makes this punch to the gut feel worse than it normally would: Brock Turner has a mother. His victim has a mother. And both of those mothers probably taught their children the exact same thing about sexual assault and consent that the rest of us are teaching our children: it was her responsibility to avoid it.
When I learned how to drive, I distinctly remember my father talking to me about walking to my car alone. I was taught to never, ever walk through a parking lot without an escort. I am not even a little bit angry that he gave me that warning, honestly, but here's my beef: he shouldn't have to give me that warning. I shouldn't have to walk with my hand on the trigger of my pepper spray. I shouldn't have to stare at and memorize the face of every man I see, just in case he decides to assault me. And I shouldn't have to look in the mirror and consider whether or not what I'm wearing will cause a man to want to pin me down and violate me.
When I started college, I attended entire seminars at my university that focused on how young women should avoid assault and rape. Ask me how many men attended these seminars. Please, ask. Zero. It was made perfectly clear to me, at the ripe-old age of 18, that it was my duty as a woman to help the men around me not feel the urge to take advantage of me. And if they did, it was probably something I brought upon myself by flirting, drinking, or wearing ill-fitting clothes.
We're doing it wrong, folks. I am sick and tired of teaching girls to live in fear. We teach our daughters from a young age that they must cover themselves in order to not tempt the boys around them. Dressing a certain way is viewed as a form of consent, apparently, which overrides any verbal non-consent. We teach young women that they shouldn't "put themselves in a position" to be overpowered or taken advantage of. If a woman goes to a party or a bar, it is her responsibility to ensure her beverage is covered and in sight. And heaven forbid she accept a drink from a man, because that too has been shown to be a form of consent that some consider more important than any verbal proclamation to the contrary.
So I ask, why are our daughters the ones carrying this burden?
The damage has been done for my generation, as far as I can tell. We've all been raised to believe the same thing our mothers and grandmothers were raised to believe: men are animals with animal instincts, and we mustn't tempt them with our bodies or our actions. Well, I refuse to raise the next generation of my family with this same ideology. In fact, my husband and I have already planted the seeds for our son to understand consent, albeit in a more age-appropriate manner than sex.
No means no.
Yes, and then no, means no.
Yes, yes, HECK YES, and then no, still means no.
If the person is unable to respond to the question (I'm looking at you, Brock), it means no.
In summary: if someone is not clearly and emphatically telling you "yes," then the answer is a definite no.
How would I feel if my son committed the same terrible acts as Brock Turner? I can't say for certain, but I can guarantee you I wouldn't make the same disgusting and dismissive statements as Dan Turner. Our job as parents is to love our children, unconditionally. To teach them right from wrong. You can love your child fiercely, and not condone their actions. You can absolutely scold them, admonish them, and be angry at them, all the while still loving them. That's a thing, Mr. Turner. You can show empathy, compassion, and remorse for your son's victim, and still love your son.
Too many women are being assaulted and are terrified to come forward, and a large percentage of those women are in their early-twenties, and in situations eerily similar to this one. Meanwhile, there is a large school of thought in our country that women falsify and fabricate rape claims. For attention, for money, for fame... the list of reasons goes on and on. I can tell you right now, that rape victims are not looking for any of these things. The two graduate students who witnessed this rape, chased the rapist, and pinned him to the ground until help arrived would surely agree with me. The police who arrived to find the victim, unconscious, dirty, and half naked? I'm sure they'd agree, too. The doctors and nurses who tended to the victim for hours until she regained consciousness would probably also agree with me. And the victim herself, whose personal life, sexual history, character, and morals were all questioned, would absolutely agree with me. No woman seeks attention in the form of having photos of her naked, mangled body made into posters and presented in front of strangers, media, and her family. No woman wants money so badly that she is willing to have her vagina and other body parts inspected, prodded, and swabbed repeatedly, all while trying repeatedly to wake from the nightmare of a rape investigation. There is not a woman on this planet who would want fame bad enough that she would be willing to stand up in front of the man she's accusing of one of the most disgusting crimes a person can commit, and repeat her story in gory detail for a room full of people who are there to judge her and pick apart every detail of her life.
That does not happen. But unreported rapes do happen. This school of thought is exactly why. Brock Turner's sentence is exactly why. The horror, humiliation, and revictimization that Brock Turner's prey endured only to have it all be dismissed as "20 minutes of action" is why.