Living in A Culture of Rape

I have recently read the viral statement of the Turner rape victim that was eloquent, beautiful, and vulnerable. My sadness and understanding for the victim was quickly replaced by anger from a statement by the rapist's father. I choose not to mention his name, because I feel the title of "Rapist's Father" is exactly the kind of label he should be identified with. You can certainly see where and how his son got his guidance in life. Like father like son, absolutely no concern for the victim, and complete selfishness in what they believe to be a man's world. The rapist's father spends five sentences discussing how his son has lost his appetite and how his son's life is changed forever. But, what literally made my jaw drop was the father's insensitive statement, "That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action." It makes me wonder what the father would be saying if his son killed a woman? It takes much less than "20 minutes of action" to end one life and forever alter so many others. The idea that the amount of time spent to commit a heinous act is proportional to what the sentencing should be, is absolutely absurd. An act of murder can take seconds; the time it takes a bullet to leave the barrel of a gun. So why is he making a comparison regarding the time it took for his son to rape an innocent woman, a life-altering event for numerous people: the rapist, the victim, the victim's sister, the jury who had to agonize over the graphic details, the victim's parents. I could go on and on. This leads me to another question, what would the rapist's father be saying if he was not in fact the rapist's father. What would he be saying if it was his son undressed and raped by another man behind a dumpster? Would that "20 minutes of action" be so minimal now? What if instead of no longer enjoying grilling a steak and eating pretzels, his son couldn't sleep without being attacked in his dreams? What if instead of being a star athlete his precious son had to drop out of school to attend therapy and rebuild his life after he was raped, humiliated and tortured? What would his statement be then?

What upsets me even more than this disrespectful father that clearly failed to teach his son the difference between right and wrong, was the judge. The question of whether Brock was innocent or guilty became irrelevant when the jury convicted him. He was proven guilty. Proven. The victim may have had a sliver of relief after the conviction; the thought this horrific journey of reliving her tortured hell everyday might have been worth it. Instead, the judge gifted the rapist six months and three years probation. I say again, he was already convicted.

People wonder why we still live in a rape culture. There are so many contributions to this horrendous culture; I don't even want to begin to list them. Instead, I would like to point out; this trial was a massive contribution and example of rape culture. The rapist's father exemplified entitlement that contributes to rape culture. The rapist demonstrated complete denial and inability to take responsibility for his actions and massively contributed to victim blaming. A female friend of the rapist, in her response to the judge, directly blamed the victim under the guise "I am not victim blaming" in the same way someone says, "No offense, but you're stupid." And this judge contributed when he entirely disregarded the effect on the victim. Instead, the judge tried to minimize the effect it had on the rapist. He is not the victim. I cannot say it loud enough. He is not even close to being a victim. He is a rapist. Rapist! The moment he entered an unconscious woman, he became a rapist and that is and should be his identity. If and when he can admit his responsibility and culpability, and after serving a debt to society (the sentence he received didn't even make a dent in the interest on the debt he owes to society and to the victim) he may be able to minimize his new identity.

I was taught men only want one thing. What a sad statement to group together an entire gender and put them in that ugly box. Yet, it is proven to be true time and time again. I was taught how to lace my car keys through my fingers when walking through a parking lot, to park close to the building or house, to aim for a spot under the street light, to walk in the middle of the street if I was walking alone so when I'm attacked (yes, when, not if), the neighbors can see me when I scream. I was told I had a good scream, and if anyone ever tried to take me, do not stop screaming. I was taught how to kick out a brake light if I was ever locked in a trunk. I was taught which brands of pepper spray to carry and which ones wouldn't leak in my purse, because I would be carrying them with me the rest of my life. I was taught as a child to not wear skirts or dresses too short, so as to not attract the unwanted attention of leering men. I was taught to be careful to trust; a friend offered to go with me on a first date and sit at a nearby table "just in case." As a woman who has not been raped, I spend an exhausting amount of time protecting myself from my greatest fear: being sexually assaulted. Some disagree, I'm certain, but I know I am not alone when I say my greatest fear in life is sexual assault. I have watched women in my life live through their rapes, crumble and fall, rebuild themselves and crumble again. Eventually, these wonderful, strong women have built themselves up to be tall again, but there is and will always be a part of them missing; maybe a sense of safety, or perhaps a certain type of joy and trust that was snatched away. They were robbed in a way no woman should ever be robbed. This is rape culture. This is the epidemic that robs women, all women of their sense of safety. Women cannot go to a party and drink the same way men do. Women cannot go out at night the same way men can and do. Women cannot wear whatever they want or they will be accused of "wanting it," or "deserving it." How do we teach our daughters to trust men and yet simultaneously protect themselves from men? How can we encourage them to love and respect men, and somehow teach them that not all men will love and respect them? How can we encourage them to be friends with boys or men while they live with the underlying fear of being left alone in the same room? Do we have to change our behavior to lessen our chances of being raped? This is an epidemic; an epidemic that judges like Aaron Persky propagate. This is an epidemic we have to stop. It may be too late for us. We are already programmed to not accept drinks from unknown men, never leave a drink unattended, and to use the buddy system when going just about anywhere. But it shouldn't be too late for our children. They should be able to trust, and be safe, and love in a way that took us double or triple the amount of time to achieve as a result of this rape culture.

So if anyone asks me one more time why my best friend didn't report her rape, why my mother didn't report her rape, I will offer to them the details of this case as a shining example. This woman went through hell and back for the trial. Her rapist will spend less time in jail than she did in court. Her rapist has a chance at a much more normal life than she ever will. She was robbed. Her sense of safety was stolen, her joy: stolen, life as she knew it: stolen. And he got a slap on the wrist. Do you think this punishment deters other rapists? I wonder. Does this send a message that rape is not tolerated? That this is a heinous act? Ask yourself why so many rapes go unreported. Because going through the additional hell of a very public trial must allow a victim to receive justice. Instead, to watch your rapist gain the judge's sympathy after conviction, is a whole new type of hell. It could certainly be considered a different type of torture. And this one was administered under the guise of justice.

All of us: all genders, all colors, all cultures absolutely must change "rape culture." And it will take all of us to do it. If not for us, for our children.