Are We Finally Going To Be Able to Talk About Rape

Brock Turner, a former Stanford student and athlete, was convicted of felony sexual assault.  A possible prison sentence turned into a sentence of six months of jail time and three years probation because the judge thought prison would be too difficult and screw up the rapist's life.  The rapist's father referred to the assault as "20 minutes of action" as opposed to the rest of his life when he wasn't raping unconscious women.  This has sparked, rightfully so, outrage.

Let me be clear, 30 years ago as a peer sexuality educator I did workshops on campus rape.  This has been an on-going problem.  Young men will tell you that it is difficult to know sometimes when a woman means no, that they send confusing signals, that they appear to be asking for it.  Men are also taught it is their job to get her ready and to convince her to have sex. (think about how society teaches men about their role in sexuality or listen to Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke) But here is a simple rule. If the person you are having sex with can't respond to simple questions, open their eyes, or enjoy it because he or she is unconscious it is rape.  What this rapist did is not something that can be mitigated by circumstance, he was in the middle of raping a woman behind a dumpster and was caught.  His so-called 20 minutes of action was crime, a terrible crime, and the judge in this case basically said to the world and especially to women that men are gonna rape you and you should get over it.

You can argue that alcohol was involved and the rapist's judgement was impaired.  In college the drinking age was not yet 21 and there was a lax attitude toward drinking on campus.  My first job was pouring beers as campus events.  I, and none of my friends, ever were drunk enough to not see a passed out girl as someone who was consenting and if we were the alcohol would be an inhibitor to actually being able to engage in sexual intercourse.  Frankly the few times that rumors came up that a guy was trying to get with a drunk girl my friends clearly saw it as wrong. But for others, it is part of the college life that we have come to expect.

So why don't we talk about it more?  I think because we don't want to acknowledge or give energy to the fact that young people, living together, unsupervised will find each other attractive and engage in sexual behavior that is often outside the context of a relationship.  Should they or not is not for this discussion.  They do.  How they interact with each other and respect each other in the process is what is key.  But when we talk about rape prevention so often we talk about it in the context of women learning self-defense, not walking alone at night, even not drinking alcohol at a party.  We have to start talking about the fact that women are not the problem here.  This rapist took advantage of a woman who was doing exactly the same thing he was, having fun at a party.  Did she drink too much?  I don't know.  Was she dosed with something?  I don't know.  What I do know is that I want to live in a society where a person can make a mistake and get drunk and that doesn't make him or her available to anyone who wants to sexually assault him or her.

Every time a rapist, like this guy, is treated like the victim of his own actions or I hear someone say that he has suffered enough doesn't understand the situation.  The judge and his father sound like monsters to most of the world.  As well they should.  I find the judge to be an accomplice after-the-fact, running cover for this rapist.  But maybe it sparks a better conversation, Maybe we can now see that we have to talk about this in a more holistic context.  Maybe we won't be so quick to judge women who drink, wear thongs, dance suggestively, or simply have a foul mouth when they are raped.  Maybe we won't try to prevent rape by simply trying to lock up women or forcing them to take on the responsibility of the actions and maybe we can see that the justice system has been so devastating toward women so often in rape cases.  Maybe we can have a national discussion.  Thirty years ago we did workshops to show this.  I fear we wasted a generation.  I am moved by the outrage over this miscarriage of justice and mercy.  But outrage feels good, action does good.  Talk to your children about appropriate behavior.  Talk to your schools, houses of worship, sports coaches, anyone to help change the narrative.  Women should not have to wear chastity belts to avoid being raped when they want to have fun at a party.  And men should know that if the woman can't talk she didn't say yes.


Comments

Popular Posts