By Alyssa McCord
Ladies, we need to have a talk. Unless you’ve been on some sort of social media cleanse over these past few weeks, you know what happened with 20-year-old rapist Brock Turner and his victim.
For those of you who are mildly clueless, let me recap for you: Brock Turner, a 20-year-old male (note: you probably already know he was a “star” swimmer at Stanford, too, but we’re not talking about his unrelated swimming career—we’re talking about his act of sexual assault) met a young woman at a party, and then later proceeded to assault her behind a dumpster while she was unconscious and unable to defend herself or give consent. Two men then found him, tackled him, and waited until authorities arrived to take him into custody.
The young woman (note: You probably already know she was intoxicated, but that’s also pretty irrelevant, don’t you think?) gave an incredibly moving statement in which she bravely directly addressed her rapist and explained what her life has been like since the assault. From having to take considerable leave from work, to uncontrollable moments of anxiety and inconsolable sadness that has consumed not only herself, but her family as well, the victim didn’t ask for sympathy—she simply asked for justice to be served.
I want to remind you that the word “justice” means “the process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish crimes and criminals.” I want to remind you what this means, because it is at the core of why we, as women, need to have a talk.
Judge Aaron Persky determined that punishing Brock Turner to the full extent of the law would have a “severe impact” on his future. Turner’s decision, that he made willingly as an adult, is essentially being written off as a youthful indiscretion. While he will have to register as a sex offender (note: because he is, by definition, a sex offender) and will serve six months in county jail, the “severity” of being justly punished for his crime has been deemed more important than the severity of the mental and physical harm he willingly inflicted upon this young woman.
When I was 18 years old in my freshman year of college, my boyfriend raped me in his dorm room, and only stopped when his roommate walked in. In the days following, the majority of my classmates, at this school where word traveled entirely too fast, told me I was a liar. People I didn’t even know told me I was crazy. Months later when I finally found the courage to confront him, after I had dropped out of school and moved more than 1,000 miles away just to regain an ounce of safety again, my boyfriend gave me advice on how not to get raped again: “Don’t wait for someone to walk in next time.”
Ladies, we need to have a talk because the court system has determined that this young man’s potential future is more important than the safety and well being of his victim. We need to talk because my rapist genuinely thought the solution to me not experiencing sexual assault again was to not put myself in situation where I could be raped, completely ignorant of the fact that he was the one who made the conscious decision to rape me in the first place.
We need to have a talk because this decision has essentially signified that you, as a woman, are now “fair game,” as long as a guy doesn’t mind a slap on the wrist and a minimal sentence after raping you. You can have witnesses, you can have dirt found inside of your body, you can give a moving testimony explaining the irreversible damage that has already been done—but at the end of the day, your well-being and your safety is not as important as the potential future success of your rapist.
You can go down the deep end. You can drink until you black out every night to numb the pain. You can skip every single class because you can’t will yourself to get out of bed. You can drop out of college because the thought of being on campus with a man you loved who so cruelly betrayed your trust and your body makes you physically ill—yet you will still be labeled as crazy, as a liar, by people who don’t even know you.
In case you haven’t noticed, there are men in positions of power, such as Judge Aaron Persky, that have proven that they do not value the basic human rights of women. When Judge Persky made his decision, he set the precedent that “justice” being served meant prioritizing the interests of a rapist, over the well being and protection of the victim. This is what “justice” now means—that it has been deemed just and fair to serve a minimal sentence after sexually assaulting someone.
This means that it’s time for women to have a serious talk. We have an obligation to ourselves, to each other, and to this victim to do what Judge Persky and many others have so blatantly refuse to do. It’s our turn to demand justice and equality.
We’re not going to ask for it. We’re going to take it. We do not need permission. We do not need to wait our turn.
At the end of the day, Brock Turner will do his time (six months, to be exact), and then he will go on with his life. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
We’re changing the conversation. This will no longer be a conversation about how unjust this situation is, until the next tragedy comes along to catch our attention in our newsfeeds. This is an opportunity to turn a senseless act of violence into an intentional era of change. This is our call to arms, ladies.
To the victim of this tragedy—we are with you. On the nights when you feel alone, we are with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, we are with you. We will fight everyday for you, and we will never stop fighting. We are the lighthouses, standing tall, shining. You are powerful, we are powerful, and no one can take that away from us.
About Alyssa McCord
Alyssa McCord is a 25 year old writer, #GirlBoss, and nomad, currently residing in Dallas, TX. She is currently acting as the manager of digital strategy and influencer marketing at a local advertising agency after several years spent in Boston and Nashville, along with a brief stint working in the music industry. In her free time, you can find her Netflix-binging, hanging out with her cat, hiking, or having dance parties around her apartment jamming out to the newest The 1975 album.
photo courtesy of Buzzfeed