By now you’ve heard and re-heard all about the Stanford student, Brock Turner, who raped a woman behind a dumpster and then was sentenced to only 6 months of jail time and probation by the loathsome Judge Persky. If not, here’s a summary.
The more I learn of this case, the more sickened I become. I would be sickened to my core whether or not I had experienced my own similar rape situation many years ago; but given that fact, it burns me to the bone.
Among the details and statements that have come out from all sides of this case, one I’m particularly bothered by is the rapist’s own statement that his “20 minutes of action,” as his father called it, were the result of “party culture” and too much alcohol. He now wants to heroically speak out on campuses everywhere about these issues to spare another person from enduring the same kind of suffering he has based on a momentary lapse in alcohol altered judgment.
Here is an excerpt from his statement:
I’ve been shattered by the party culture and risk taking behavior that I briefly experienced in my four months at school. I’ve lost my chance to swim in the Olympics. I’ve lost my ability to obtain a Stanford degree. I’ve lost employment opportunity, my reputation and most of all, my life. These things force me to never want to put myself in a position where I have to sacrifice everything. I would make it my life’s mission to show everyone that I can contribute and be a positive influence on society from these events that have transpired. I will never put myself through an event where it will give someone the ability to question whether I really can be a betterment to society. I want no one, male or female, to have to experience the destructive consequences of making decisions while under the influence of alcohol. I want to be a voice of reason in a time where people’s attitudes and preconceived notions about partying and drinking have already been established. I want to let young people know, as I did not, that things can go from fun to ruined in just one night.
Excuse me while I throw up and scream.
This is not an issue of alcohol. This has nothing to do with party culture. This has everything to do with a mentality of privilege based on a set of societal rules too many people have accepted; and a rapist trying to cover his actions with weak, selfish diversion tactics.
I, like too many other women, have experienced rape. My experience started much like the victim in the Stanford case. A night of too much drinking. And just as Brock Turner, his attorney, his father, and the judge who ruled over the case have tried to do, I looked at myself to determine the cause of those events that night. I blamed myself for drinking too much. I hated myself for years because I allowed something like that to happen to me and I couldn’t blame anyone but myself.
Why couldn’t I blame the boy who raped me?
Because society looks to the victim first. Rape culture says it’s our fault.
Just as the victim outlines in her heartbreaking letter, we are asked questions like, “What were you wearing? Why were you at the party in the first place? How much did you have to drink?” As if the answer to any of those questions excuses an inexcusable action.
A few years after I was raped, I was in a long term relationship. That man happened to be quite involved in the “party culture” and indulged in “too much alcohol” on a regular basis. There was a night I will never forget in which we had both overindulged in alcohol. Granted, unlike the victim in this case or even myself the night of my own rape, I was not too drunk to make decisions. Nonetheless, as my partner and I engaged in consensual sex (as if any other kind of sex exists-because anything else would be rape), somewhere along the way I began to have a flashback to that devastating night many years ago at that party. I started to cry and felt the air escaping my lungs. Immediately, despite alcohol intake and consensual sex, he stopped. He stopped immediately. He consoled me and held me until we both fell asleep.
There is no amount of party culture or alcohol that makes a person rape another person.
There is no amount of drinking at a frat party that can excuse what Brock Turner did.
There is no amount of speaking on college campuses that can make him not a rapist.
Can he get help and hopefully never strip another soul of their worth, privacy, dignity, confidence, and sense of safety in the world? I sure hope so.
But this is not an issue of alcohol.
This is not an issue of party culture.
This is an issue of rape culture.
Blaming the victim. Excusing inexcusable actions because someone has athletic talent and potential for future success. Denying the pain and life altering experience of someone else in an effort to protect a reputation. Trying to buy or talk one’s way out of his repugnant actions. And a societal culture that, even if unknowingly, backs this behavior.
Brock Turner may be “suffering” some small consequences of his own choices, but it is nothing compared to the degradation he inflicted on his victim that night. His “20 minutes of action” stripped someone else of her dignity and changed her life forever. Sure, his is changed too. But he had a choice. She didn’t.
There will never be a time alcohol can become the excuse for something like this. Is alcohol a factor? Sure. But the moment we allow someone to blame rape on “party culture and too much alcohol” is the moment I lose hope in humanity.
We have to keep talking about this. It’s not going away. This is not an issue we can get sick of hearing about, roll our eyes, and leave alone. This rape culture mentality pervades much more than college campus parties and 19 year old athletes. This is something that affects everything and everyone. Our children. Their futures. All of our lives.
It’s true that alcohol can destroy lives. Another person’s love of alcohol affected mine in a very real way. But alcohol is just one small detail in a sea of problems with this story and so many others just like it.
I am infinitely repulsed by stories like this, to include my own, and I am so glad people are talking about it, loudly and with passion.
Rape is never the victim’s fault, no matter how much alcohol was involved.
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