By: Mack Thompson
Disgust. Anger. Sadness. Every time I see an event like the one that is currently being discussed, these emotions run through me. Disgusted at the man who did this and the way the victim was treated, angry with the judge, and ultimately deeply saddened to know that gender violence awareness was not able to save an innocent young woman from the trauma of rape.
This case truly hurt me to read. I have seen the effects of rape on people that I love and I can assure you it is one of the most psychologically challenging things someone can deal with. I have learned however that terrible things happen so that we can learn from them in order to not repeat our mistakes again. If we are to overcome rape and sexual violence, we must understand the mistakes that were made in this case and learn from them collectively to try to prevent this kind of situation from happening again.
Here 4 are lessons from this tragedy that we must learn in order to prevent history from repeating itself.
The most controversial and misunderstood part of rape is consent. What makes this issue far most problematic is understanding consent when there is drinking involved. Bar culture and party culture isn’t something you learn from your mom and dad when you are growing up. Most of the time men learn our lessons from friends with more experience than ourselves or by simple observation. Men are not told when you enter a bar/party how you are supposed to treat women and with the ever increasing rate of unreported sexual violence in bars/parties, men are often confused as to what the lines of consent are. My fellow men: I would like to inform you all that if your potential partner is intoxicated or high, they cannot consent to ANY sexual acts. If they’re slurring their words, stumbling, or acting unlike themselves, these are signs that they are not of sound mind and can’t give consent. Going to the bar with the intention of getting a girl drunk to the point that they can’t fight back or say no is pre-meditated assault. If you want to make sure you are not crossing boundaries, check in and ask if they are ok. If they are intoxicated, help them find a safe way home. If they’re really into you, you can just wait until you are both sober. Your fear of rejection should not outweigh your potential partner’s right to say no.
Along with this it is important to note that any of the following questions posed by the attackers attorney towards the victim do not change whether an act is consensual.
How old are you? How much do you weigh? What did you eat that day? Well what did you have for dinner? Who made dinner? Did you drink with dinner? No, not even water? When did you drink? How much did you drink? What container did you drink out of? Who gave you the drink? How much do you usually drink? Who dropped you off at this party? At what time? But where exactly? What were you wearing? Why were you going to this party? What’ d you do when you got there? Are you sure you did that? But what time did you do that? What does this text mean? Who were you texting? When did you urinate? Where did you urinate? With whom did you urinate outside? Was your phone on silent when your sister called? Do you remember silencing it? Really because on page 53 I’d like to point out that you said it was set to ring. Did you drink in college? You said you were a party animal? How many times did you black out? Did you party at frats? Are you serious with your boyfriend? Are you sexually active with him? When did you start dating? Would you ever cheat? Do you have a history of cheating? What do you mean when you said you wanted to reward him? Do you remember what time you woke up? Were you wearing your cardigan? What color was your cardigan? Do you remember any more from that night? No?
How much someone has drank, what he or she is wearing, and his or her sexual history does not change what consent is and, as mentioned above, consent cannot be given if your partner has had anything to drink.
Here is a scenario; the police are coming up with a new system for traffic control. Everyone is given a car and is not allowed to choose any features about the car. After 3 years of good driving and no accidents you are driving down the road and get caught speeding. The police officer lets you off with a warning because of your good driving history. This is called earned privilege. Now imagine that everyone who got red cars did not have to obey the speed limit. This is called unearned privilege and happens frequently in life when we are treated unequally based on something that cannot be chosen like race or gender. Then there is the case where a guy in a big red truck got in a major rear-ending accident with a small car. The policeman then decides that because he is a really good chef at a nice restaurant who happens to drive a big red truck he shouldn’t be punished heavily. This didn’t have a name because someone’s ability to cook has nothing to do with his or her ability to drive and should never happen, but is now being called “The Brock Turner Privilege”.
As I was reading through the article I could hear my coach’s voice saying, “playing here is a privilege not a right” and it really is a privilege. Being a good athlete can say a lot about a person’s character because being a good athlete take a lot of hard work and determination which is a earned privilege for Brock Turner. The troubling part is that being a hard worker or a determined athlete has nothing to do with the fact that he is a rapist. It is important for athletes to realize that the privilege they have as student athletes, does not give them the right to another persons body.
In no way should your race, gender and/or athleticism change what you are entitled to. Research examining racial biases in the legal system collected data from between 1980 and 2005; 43% of the cases showed that race had a direct effect on sentencing. Black people tend to serve longer sentences for committing the same crime as white folks.(https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/sites/default/files/disparity.pdf).
If the perpetrator was black, having a judge decrease a 14 year sentence to 6 months because “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him” would never happen. The rapist was also glorified for his swimming career at Stanford, having his swim times posted in the article about him raping a woman. This should be common knowledge, but still I have to reinforce the fact that people should not be treated unequally based on their race and gender and being athletic does not make you any less guilty of rape. This is how the victim summed things up:
“The probation officer weighed the fact that he has surrendered a hard-earned swimming scholarship. How fast Brock swims does not lessen the severity of what happened to me, and should not lessen the severity of his punishment. If a first-time offender from an underprivileged background was accused of three felonies and displayed no accountability for his actions other than drinking, what would his sentence be? The fact that Brock was an athlete at a private university should not be seen as an entitlement to leniency, but as an opportunity to send a message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class.”
3. The Legal System
Rape and gender violence laws have always forged the “his word versus mine” dilemma. If there are no eyewitnesses and the victim isn’t transported immediately to hospital, it’s very hard to get enough evidence to win a legal trial. This is the main reason that only 6% of sexual assaults are reported in Canada (http://www.sexassault.ca/statistics.htm). Another major reason sexual assaults are not reported is because the length of the trials and the psychological affect that it can have. To settle a rape trial it could take years of having to recall the event in detail, as well as regularly facing the attacker in order to have any justice at all. The only real benefit to facing such a devastating trial is in the knowledge that the attacker will not be able to act again but with only 0.6% (https://rainn.org/statistics/criminal-justice-system) of perpetrators being incarcerated in the United States, it is easy to see why so many rapes go unreported. The justice system has a long way to go in order to correct the way in which rape is prosecuted but there are things for us to learn as well. If you or someone you know is a victim and are scared of informing the law, there are great resources available for advice and comfort. Though the legal system isn’t perfect, no one should have to feel unsafe or alone.
The most important thing to learn from cases like this is empathy. With empathy this case would have been different from the ground up. If the attacker had been empathetic, he would not have viewed the victim as a target for rape but as a woman who went to have fun with her younger sister. On the contrary, if two men on bikes lacked the empathy to stop the situation, it’s a very real possibility that this never would have been reported. I have seen many people struggle with the after effects of rape and sexual assault ranging from suicide to PTSD. People around the world struggle with this daily and until we possess the empathy to start viewing the people around us as people, the struggling will continue.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mack Thompson is a member of Laurier’s Football team. He is headed into his final year of his undergrad, studying biochemistry and biotechnology.