In the last week or so, the whole world has weighed in on the Brock Turner Stanford Rape Case. For those who aren’t familiar, Turner was a NCAA Division I collegiate swimmer and olympic hopeful on scholarship to Stanford University, and was convicted of the brutal sexual assault of a young woman he met at a fraternity party. He was caught in the act of sexual assaulting this unconscious woman behind a garbage bin not far from the fraternity house, and was chased down and held by two heroic young men until police arrived on the scene. (Click here to read about these two heroes). Though convicted unanimously by a jury, and in spite of the fact that the prosecutor argued for six years instead of the maximum penalty of fourteen, Judge Aaron Persky gave Turner the outrageously lenient sentence of only six months in county jail saying, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him…I think he will not be a danger to others.” By California standards, he is expected to serve only three months in protective custody (because God-forbid should he be sexually assaulted or abused by another inmate!) and should see release by September of this year.
Never has a case outraged me as much as this one has. Never have I felt such anger toward an individual or a case that had nothing to do with me, personally. But how can anyone not be deeply offended by the continued victimization of the young woman whose life was altered that day? How can we not all be gobsmacked by a brutal rape that is carelessly depicted as “20 minutes of action” by the defendant’s father? (Click here to read the father’s incredibly offensive defense of his son). How is it even possible for anyone — especially women — to not be personally offended by the idea that Turner’s defense was not “I made a terrible mistake and brutally assaulted an innocent woman for which I take full ownership and am deeply sorry,” but instead that he’s the victim of a culture that promotes alcohol and sexual promiscuity? Let me tell you something, Mr. Turner: the culture of college often does promote alcohol indulgence and maybe even some level of sexual promiscuity; but it does not promote violence or rape, nor does it make excuses for those acts for the simple reason that there are some offenses — like rape — that are so morally incomprehensible that even a drunk person still knows that the act is both vile and wrong.
I’ve spent the last week being furious about this case to the point that it borders on being unhealthy. I’ve read every article I can get my hands on (and shared many of them with my followers), and it’s led me to the decision that I must do something positive. I can’t just sit back and watch this happen again and again without taking some action in my own life that might affect the future. I can’t change the outcome of Brock’s actions or his sentencing; but, as the mother of a young boy, I can certainly amend the tone of the conversations I’ll be having with him about sex. Toward this end, I have begun a list of talking points I plan to introduce as he reaches the age of understanding. This list is certainly not complete, and I’d love to add to it if there are others out there with suggestions. But here’s my start:
- I VOW TO TEACH MY SON TO RESPECT THE ACT OF INTIMACY. I will teach him that sex is maybe the most intimate act between two people, and should never be entered into casually. It is most certainly not an act that is carried out behind a garbage bin!
- I VOW TO TEACH MY SON THAT NO MEANS NO. No means no, and it doesn’t matter who that “no” is coming from. A long-time girlfriend with whom he’s had an intimate relationship over a long period of time, or a girl he hooks up with at a party, or even his own wife as a married man — there is no difference. No means no. There is no “maybe.” There is no “give me a minute to convince you.” No means no — There is no confusion.
- I VOW TO TEACH MY SON THAT ONLY YES MEANS YES. If you don’t hear the word “yes,” then it means no. “I’m not sure” means no. “I’m not ready” means no. “Let’s just cuddle” means no. And “I’ve had too much to drink” means HELL NO. Any other word besides, “yes” or “yes, please,” means no.
- I VOW TO TEACH MY SON NEVER TO MIX SEX WITH ALCOHOL. If either party has been drinking, then sex of any kind is off the table — it is no longer a consideration. Just walk away. As a young man, let’s not even put yourself in the position of any misunderstanding and potentially defending yourself!
- I VOW TO TEACH MY SON RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS OWN ACTIONS. Good people make bad choices. It happens. I will do everything within my ability to teach my son the difference between right and wrong, but I can’t be there every minute to ensure that he follows the lessons he’s been taught. But I will teach him that a real man takes ownership for his actions. If you hit a dog on the street, you don’t shrug your shoulders and go on — you pull over and try to find the owner. If you door ding someone’s car, you don’t complain that they parked too close — you leave a note with your insurance to explain what happened. And if you harm someone either through malicious intent or by accident, you own your behavior and accept the consequences. YOU DON’T BLAME SOMEONE ELSE FOR YOUR OWN ACTIONS.
- I VOW NOT TO ENABLE MY SON. I will not make excuses for his actions. Instead, I will stand beside him and loan him the courage necessary to accept responsibility for his actions, and the penalty for whatever accompanies those actions.
In closing, I will just say to the victim how incredibly proud I am of your courage and strength through this process. I can’t begin to imagine the emotional trauma this has caused you, but we stand beside you in solidarity against the violence you’ve endured. My prayer is that your suffering since the assault has not been in vain. I would never wish upon another all that you’ve been through, but my prayer is that your story awakens the conscience of our nation and that we finally take the steps to end rape on college campuses. My hope is that the outrage over Brock Turner’s joke of a sentence will inspire other judges to more thoughtful consideration for the victim’s pain, and that the sentences they hand down will more uniformly reflect the heinousness of the crime. I hope that those who know someone accused of sexual assault will think carefully and objectively before taking sides against the victim, remembering that a monster quite frequently hides his ugly on the inside. And more than all of that and most important of all, I want you to know that WE BELIEVE YOU and that IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT.