As the media-coined “Stanford Rape Case” went viral over this past week, it revealed the essence of a “rape culture” that rightfully invokes rage in many of us. Details of the case and its sentencing struck the deep trenches of injustice.
As strong emotions surfaced in the media and online in response to the case, I was struck with a series of questions:
While in no way condoning his violent act, is it possible that Brock Turner’s most disturbing transgression was not in forcing himself on the woman or running away but in his continued denial? Can we as a society take some responsibility that this young man was conditioned into a system of power that gave him little to no room to tell the truth?
Could it be that our society raised him to believe that a woman’s unconscious body was an object of his pleasure? That the countless movies and TV shows, video games and ads he was fed gave some part of him an okay for his actions?
Is Brock Turner wearing the rage of every rape case gone untried, of each time privilege was granted leniency, and of every person who questioned her truth and chose her silence?
Is his public shaming the answer? Will this shame make a difference in his ability to see his wrongdoing and examine it, to let the woman’s letter seep through him and fully permeate those places that could help them both heal?
As someone who was around the same age as the woman involved in the case when I was drugged and raped but don’t remember enough of what happened to have claimed my story, I want to post the “We with the Pitchforks” blog on my Facebook wall with the rest of them. But, for me, that is not the answer. I believe there is a deeper truth.
I believe what Brock did was absolutely wrong and that he should endure just punishment for his actions.
I also believe that the media and attorneys played up both that Brock was a Stanford swimmer with a bright future and the fact that the rape went down behind a dumpster as details repeated with the intention of skewing our perceptions and heightening our senses.
I believe there is a very human aspect of this story that reveals a mass confusion about what rape is and isn’t, about what a woman’s worth is and isn’t, about what power is and isn’t, and about what restitution is and isn’t.
I believe the elders – dad, coaches, and mentors – in Brock’s life failed him. Where is the role model giving him the message that shouldering the truth of his wrongdoing is the right choice? Who is showing him that it is not only okay but healthy – if not heroic – to tell the truth at the time of our most tragic failures?
Instead, Brock lives in a world and a family that has shown him to lie his way through this to “preserve his future.” While Brock’s status may remain somewhat in tact, he lacks the inner fortitude that would change his behavior in future. That strength comes from owning our stories, our mistakes, and our character flaws. Only in the acceptance of what is does change become possible.
What I would like to see more than Brock spending 10 years in prison is for him to find a safe enough place to truly realize the depth of his wrongdoing – so that his heart and soul can feel the weight of his actions. I wish for him a safe enough place to find genuine remorse in his choices, the kind that transmutes into the sincere acknowledgement that can transform pain and suffering not only for the two involved in this incident but for all of us that look on. I believe that the power of Truth can do that, and I don’t believe these places within are accessible as we are simultaneously shielding ourselves from public humiliation. Instead of focusing on the impact of our own actions and moral failure, we are left licking the wounds of the pain being inflicted upon us.
And for the woman (who I would prefer to call by name), I wish her the support and healing she needs, so that she can reclaim her body as she has her voice, to wear her “cloak” with love and appreciation once again.
I have wished that for myself. I can’t pinpoint an exact moment that my body became such an object of disgust, but no doubt it did in part because of the unwanted attention and advances it drew – from being called by senior football players “exotic erotic” as a very innocent freshman in high school to the groping on and claiming of my body by young men before I had ever claimed it for myself.
I hope that the woman who endured this case has the resources she needs to process this experience fully. Our greatest challenges can become our greatest sources of strength. I wish this deep healing for all people who saw themselves in her story.
Roots of the problem with this case lie not in what happened to these two people on the Stanford campus but in a culture that failed both of them far before either ever arrived there – one that drives us to drink until we’re passed out, that makes women feel better “letting loose” after a few or 10 drinks, that teaches men a loose woman is just an easier target than a straight one, and that teaches people it is better to lie and omit to escape and preserve than to tell and claim the truth that really sets us free.
This tragedy has now affected many more than those directly involved in the rape and their inner circles. Each of us can choose how we channel our reactions:
Claim your story more fully. Look at the pain you’ve hidden away. Go into the places that hurt and process them until you find comfort and healing there.
Notice the types of media you are consuming and whether or not any of it objectifies women or promotes violence. If you are exposing yourself to these images and messages regularly, you are being desensitized, and our desensitization allows for more violence and objectification in the collective because we are less willing to stand up against it.
Honestly examine what kind of role model you are to the younger generation. Young people are watching what you do. They are noticing who you are. They care much more about the example they see then the words that come out of your mouth telling them what they should and shouldn’t do. Are you living by the same suggestions you are giving those around you? Take time and do the work to make your beliefs and your actions more congruent.
The ways we can take the pain of this collective experience and transform it into love in our lives are many. They are personal to you. Today, take a moment to think about the real lesson this case can hold for you.