Two years ago, Brock Turner was found thrusting on top of an unconscious woman outside a party at Stanford University. Two male students chased him down and apprehended him. They later cried when testifying in court, the scenes that they had witnessed were traumatic and affecting.
Some of the sound-bites and statements from the trial still manage to make me feel sick. The callousness of his father, who just didn’t understand why his son should be punished for a mere ‘twenty minutes of action.’ I could kill a room full of people in twenty minutes. While this might read like a sick black comedy, timing has nothing to do with it.
Turner’s case encapsulates ingrained, misogynistic and violent attitudes towards sex, rape and women. I’ve written before on the emotionally traumatic process that is pressing charges on sexual assault cases. The victim impact statement written by the victim (who chose to remain anonymous) is a testament to the ways in which women are let down by all aspects of society. We are let down by individuals, who chose to follow us down dark roads. We are let down by a culture that teaches young men that consent is optional. We are let down by a judicial system which seems geared against rape victims, that paints them as ‘seductive party animals’, willing to sleep with anyone.
Turner says that had he noticed she was unconscious, he would have stopped humping her on a concrete floor behind a dumpster. Because that’s how consent works right? If she’s falling over and literally can’t speak, feel free to undress her. But god forbid you penetrate a woman who’s actually unconscious.
Turner was ultimately sentenced to a mere six months in prison, of which he served three. He was sentenced on three charges, one of which was assault with attempt to rape.
He’s now appealing his sentence. His attorney is arguing that all he wanted was ‘sexual outercourse’, which is apparently, a version of ‘safe sex.’ Sexual outercourse is a made up word, designed to get him off the hook for two of his charges which involve penetration with a foreign object. I think sexual outercourse basically means dry humping, but as it’s term designed specifically to circumnavigate the justice system, who knows? Maybe he’s claiming he just wanted a hug. That’s why he needed to undress her; her underwear were founded six inches away from her, her dress was rucked up around her waist.
This kind of rhetoric is mind boggling disrespectful. This woman may have to testify all over again, to sentence a man who has she has never really met but who thought he had a right to her intoxicated body. This kind of rhetoric is also incredibly dangerous. In a legal sense, exactly what he did to her is important. But, in a social and cultural way, it isn’t. Whether he just wanted to dry hump her, or whether he was undressing her because he wanted to rape her, he didn’t have her consent. If she is so drunk she can’t speak, she is too drunk to consent. Women at parties or at clubs, or walking down the street in broad daylight deserve to live their lives without fear of men like Turner and the culture that supports him.