Overdosing on Rape Culture

The only thing to fear about too much sexual abuse talk is silencing victims and hiding predators.

The nation is grappling with their ideals. Conversations about rape culture, feminism and misogyny are important, sensitive and nuanced. Let people learn in public. Refinery29 is under fire from loyal readers after publishing "What Feminists Won't Say About Trump's Latest Accuser - But I Will.". Something out of Reductress rape day. Clickbait piece. Pissed people off. The female-written post delivers a "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" warning about rape culture: if every grope is considered sexual assault then sexual assault will never be taken seriously. The article is most offensive in demanding we minimize our reaction to subjectively? codified? lower sex offenses like a boob grab in the public square. This tracks with the dominant view that victims of sexual harassment should keep their stories private.

The comments section looks a lot like:

"You probably didn't hold a press conference after a man inappropriately touched you because he wasn't running for President of the United States and/or publicly giving speeches about how much he respects women. But the man who touched you was still just as wrong, disgusting and demeaning. Kind of like this article."

"Being groped by ANYONE is horrible, and not standing up against it only reinforces that behavior. You think that stranger groping another stranger isn't doing the same things to women in his life? As a victim of multiple sexual assaults, it's these sentiments that keep people like me silent for years. ALSO, DUDE IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT. I DON'T WANT A PRESIDENT WHO THINKS IT'S OKAY TO TOUCH WOMEN THAT WORK FOR HIM OR WOMEN HE DOESN'T KNOW. This piece is so disappointing and upsetting."

"This is disgusting. How did this get past even one editor?"

"Genuinely disappointed in Refinery 29 for posting this piece. I wonder if this woman has a daughter and she gets sexually assaulted or inappropriately touched by a stranger if she will feel the same? Hmm. First r29 piece I've ever thought, "woah" in a negative light."

"What Feminists Won't Say About Trump's Latest Accuser - But I Will." concludes with: "But by the same token, there is a continuum of awful behavior. We have to remember that in order for women to be taken seriously when they are abused, we can't constantly redefine victimhood to meaninglessness. It's sort of like an accident that makes you run to the ER. We can debate about the seriousness of various ills and injuries, but we all know the difference between a severed leg and a paper cut. Don't waste your time with the paper cut. Slap on a Band-Aid and move on."

What did Refinery29's controversial click get right? There is a continuum of awful behavior and it is codified in criminal and civil sex abuse laws, especially the statute of limitations.

In June, a sexual assault victim wrote about the crime from her perspective, read the letter to her attacker in court then published it on Buzzfeed: "Never mentioned me voicing consent, never mentioned us even speaking, a back rub. One more time, in public news, I learned that my ass and vagina were completely exposed outside, my breasts had been groped, fingers had been jabbed inside me along with pine needles and debris, my bare skin and head had been rubbing against the ground behind a dumpster, while an erect freshman was humping my half naked, unconscious body. But I don't remember, so how do I prove I didn't like it."

If you're on Twitter, you likely saw: many retweets urging you to read the letter, jokes expressing a lack of sympathy toward Brock's loss of appetite and his parents grief. It is likely these tweets referred to him as a rapist. The use of "rape" and "rapist" was not limited to Twitter users. The Rolling Stone headline about his sentencing is "Stanford Rapist Brock Turner Registers as Sex Offender."

But Brock Turner isn't a rapist.

California is among a handful of states which continue to criminalize 'object penetration' to a lesser degree than penile penetration. Turner was initially charged with rape of an intoxicated person and rape of an unconscious person. Those charges were dropped at a preliminary hearing, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office said. Rape culture is a real thing we must continue to encourage a conversation about.

"The 21-year-old's light sentence was reduced to three months before he even stepped foot in a jail cell, due to "automatically applied 'credits'" for good behavior prior to sentencing. He was also in protective custody during his entire time behind bars. Given the charges against him, Turner had originally faced up to 14 years in prison. Turner's lenient punishment is the perfect example of what happens when rape culture and white privilege collide. It didn't matter that there was mounting evidence against Turner, it didn't matter that his victim was unconscious and alone, it didn't even matter that Turner was convicted ― the young "promising," "successful athlete" served only three months for assaulting a young woman whose blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit and who was reportedly unconscious for three hours on the night of the assault."

Alanna Vagianos, "Remember Brock Turner? From 3 Months Ago? He'll Leave Jail On Friday." The Huffington Post (Sept. 2, 2016)

The normalization of assault in public? Not cool.

It is the narrow interpretation of a phrase "reasonable expectation of privacy" in voyeurism laws that keeps upskirt photos legal because generally, one cannot have a reasonable expectation of privacy while in a public space. Yes, It's Legal to Take Pictures Up a Woman's Skirt Without Her Consent.

Find your state legislator and ask them to eliminate the obstacles to justice faced by victims of sexual assault.