I’ve met my own Brock Turner.
That said, I’m pretty sure most of us (if not all) have come across a few versions of him at some point in our lives. At best, we know him as a mere acquaintance who “does dumb stuff at parties,” but is “a really good guy at heart.” At worst, we know him as the boyfriend/classmate/relative/friend who does the unthinkable… and either nobody believes that he did it, or they do and nothing happens.
Most guys like Brock Turner never even go to jail. And most girls, like the one he raped, are forced to live with the consequences. 1 in 5 of us, in fact, according to statistics. But when I align that number with my own personal experience and that of my friends, it’s the majority (not the minority) who have been sexually assaulted at least once. I can count on one hand the number of girlfriends I had in college who had never been sexually assaulted in some form.
That’s bad. Really bad. How is that number even possible?
“Firstly, in case you were laboring under the misapprehension, a rapist isn’t a person who hangs around in dark alleys waiting for vulnerable young women. Men who rape are, at least in the vast majority, men like Turner. They have favorite foods, hobbies and friends. Their families love them. They go to parties. Stopping men like Turner doesn’t mean looking for psychopaths; it means addressing how nice, educated ostensibly normal men end up raping women.
“And that means facing up to the truth – all of us, including Turner himself who, in his own court statement, refused to accept responsibility for his actions and repeatedly laid the blame on booze.
“He was willing to slut-shame his victim and absolve himself of responsibility, rather than accept that what he did was wrong. We cannot allow this to continue. There is no amount of alcohol in the world that would make having sex with an unconscious woman acceptable.”
We picture rapists as strangers attacking women who walk alone at night. But that’s probably the least common scenario.
Most of us don’t recognize rapists as manipulative boyfriends, drunk classmates at parties, or over-entitled guys who think they can coerce their way out of the “friend zone.” We ignore them, make excuses for them, or even egg them on.
That’s how Brock became “Brock Turner.”
The night he raped a woman behind a dumpster, Brock took a photo of her naked breasts and sent it to his buddies in a group chat. Judging from the screenshots that surfaced online, none of his friends seemed to think this was weird.
Dude-bros: If your buddy sends you a nude photo of a woman he’s purportedly just had sex with, what’s your reaction? Do you ask him if he had her permission to photograph her and send it to people? Do you call him out on his behavior? Do you say anything? If you react with a smile, laugh or a “way to go, buddy” – you are part of the problem. I (personally) know too many guys who have sent (or been sent) nude photos of women without having permission. And it’s terrifying.
Humanity takes a backseat the second a human body becomes a thing and not a person. Brock saw this woman as his plaything, not his equal. It’s the frighteningly “normal” perspective of a young college jock who will do anything to impress his friends and massage his own ego.
You probably know a Brock Turner or two. It’s also likely that you know someone who has (or will be) raped by one. Doing nothing, “brushing it off” and egging on dangerous behavior just makes you guilty by association.
Our behavior (and reactions to other people’s behavior) shapes society. And we (as a society) shaped Brock Turner.
Too many victims are afraid to admit (even to themselves) what happened to them. Too many rapists – and their circle of friends/family – refuse to recognize force, coercion and manipulation (with alcohol, guilt, threatss or other means) as wrong. By blinding ourselves to what’s happening, we protect our rapists and influence new ones.
If we can’t rely on the system for justice, we have to start with ourselves.
MEN/GUYS/DUDES/BROS/BOYS (and their FRIENDS):
It doesn’t matter what your (or their) “intentions” are.
Anything other than an outright “yes” is a no.
It doesn’t become consensual halfway through, or afterwards.
If it doesn’t start as consensual, it’s not consensual.
If a “no” becomes a “yes” because of fear, guilt or booze, that’s still not consensual.
If it’s not consensual, it’s rape.
Read that again.
Guys: please be accountable for yourselves and your friends. If you’ve crossed the line even ONCE in your life, come clean. If your friends or family have, say something.
Every major social shift begins with an uncomfortable conversation. So let’s talk.
We all know Brock Turner. What are we going to do about him?
If you’re angry, be part of the solution. Do something beyond simply sharing articles and commenting your outrage. Say something more than “how sad” and “I’m sorry.” Maybe start by saying “I will not allow this by ignoring it anymore.”
Because this is not about Brock Turner or the nameless woman he raped.
It’s about me.
It’s about you.
A version of this post originally published on the author’s blog: Life, Unrestricted.
RJ Newell is a young writer, actor, model, and activist in Los Angeles. You can connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, and her Blog.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.