At 20, I have unfortunately experienced the disgusting feeling of waking up in a disheveled state, usually with a headache and embarrassing photos on my phone, due to a night involving alcohol.
The first time was when I was 16 and at a party my junior year of high school where I mixed expensive wine and cheap vodka and sent my mom a video of me slurring, “Mom! I’m drunk!” Not a good idea. The last time it happened was in the comfort of my home during my 20th birthday party, surrounded by family members, dogs and close friends.
Out with a friend in New York City not asking to be raped.
I moved from my juvenile wine and vodka days to Hennessy, basically fulfilling my Armenian birth right. My best friend, who I love dearly, spent the majority of that night with her finger down my throat trying to help me discharge the contents of my stomach, while I apparently cursed her the whole time.
Never once, while drinking at any setting, have I ever feared that someone was going to take advantage of me. Never once have I had to worry that I could be sexually assaulted after drinking and dancing with my friends. Until now.
This is not a story about a few of my drunken nights. It’s a story about how a woman, who drank too much one night, was forcibly taken advantage of and raped while unconscious. This story also has to do with how, as a student journalist who has covered a campus rape story, I am embarrassed at the insensitive media coverage of such a delicate case, especially while referring to the victim as “unconscious drunk girl behind a dumpster.” Lastly, it deals with the perpetuation of rape culture that was ensued by a statement from the rapist’s father, white privilege, and the idea that too much alcohol consumption is seen as the problem, rather than a man’s choice to rape someone.
When I first learned about the Brock Allen Turner case, the headline I read said “Stanford Swimmer Who Raped Unconscious Woman Gets Short Sentence Because Jail Would Have a ‘Severe Impact on Him’” — which is factual, but as I read it out loud to my 18-year-old brother and he said, “Wait, so what does that even mean?” He had thought that Turner was the one who got raped in the case due to “short sentence” and “severe impact on him” written in the headline.
After explaining it to him, he was still confused. But not about the headline; about how some people are wrongfully sent to prison for years over crimes they haven’t committed, or worse killed for their skin color, yet someone who is guilty for raping a woman is given a slap on the wrist.
“So basically that’s saying raping a woman is okay, and that if I ever did something like that I would be okay since I have a clean sheet as a goalie in soccer, right? That’s fucked.”
As I continued to Google more articles about the case, I was left with more knowledge about Turner’s success in swimming and his personal life, than details of the rape case. I knew Turner was 20 and born in Dayton, Ohio. I knew that he competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials. I knew he was a swimmer at Stanford University with a bright future. I even knew that he loved to cook and that his favorite food was ribeye steak, thanks to a statement released by his father. What I didn’t know was the state that the victim was in.
This shocked me. It shocked me even more when I realized this incident happened a year ago. A full year and only half-assed, mediocre coverage was available to the world. As per usual, I learned more from social media than I did any credible news source.
When I was first approached by my adviser and colleagues about a potential rape cover up on campus, I was terrified. I was disgusted that first — the campus I go to was just another statistic, and second — that administration attempted to act like nothing happened to spare our college.
I spoke with my adviser about interviewing the alleged victim because of my concern about sensitivity; I didn’t want to offend her in any way. She was strong enough to get through an assault, so I would have to be strong enough to report the facts. The story won multiple awards at journalism conferences and made the campus community aware of what had happened.
I saw the way students around me used Twitter to tweet out the story and to voice their concerns. There was live coverage of the protests on campus, not only by our hyper-local Saconscene staff on Twitter, but by those participating in the protests and even speaking out about their own assaults.
It increased awareness and that’s all I could ask for.
For those unaware of the People of the State of California vs Brock Allen Turner case, on Jan., 18, 2015, two Stanford students biking around campus came across a freshman male thrusting into the body of an unconscious, intoxicated woman outside of the Kappa Alpha fraternity house behind a dumpster. The woman, who remains anonymous, was not wearing any underwear, was visibly unconscious and was being penetrated by a man she did not know.
Not asking to be raped here either.
Fast forward to this March, a full year later, and Turner pleads guilty on three counts of sexual offense. The jury convicted Turner of sexually penetrating an intoxicated and unconscious person with a foreign object, and asked the judge, Aaron Perksy, to sentence him to six years in a California Prison.
However, due to his lack of criminal history and young age — is there an age you’re somehow supposed to realize that raping someone is wrong? — Judge Perksy said, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him … I think he will not be a danger to others.” Probation officials suggested six months in county jail which is nothing in comparison to the 14 years he could have faced.
I think anyone who reads this case should be angry. You should want to scream. A horrific act was committed against a 23-year-old woman whose life for the past year has been a living hell, and her rapist is getting away with a fraction of his sentence due to his white skin and ability to pay powerful lawyers from a high profile firm.
From the way the stories regarding Turner are written and the way he is described, to the photos chosen to represent him, many of us may assume that if the rapist had been someone of color, it would be dealt with differently. Does this mean that outlets sugar-coating Turner’s situation are perpetuating rape culture? People on Twitter seem to think so.
As the Editor-In-Chief of our student news publication, SAC.Media, I urge my staff writers to report facts, to not white wash situations and to treat everyone equally while covering a case. What kind of journalists would we be if we let societal stigmas, such as racism and sexism, influence our writing and coverage? Shitty ones.
Above all, what disgusts me the most, is the statement Brock Turner’s father released.
Dan A. Turner, I wish I could say that I’m sorry your son is too sad to eat steak and clearly doesn’t understand what the word “consensual” means, but “20 minutes of action” for him is a life-long amount of pain and suffering for the woman he raped. Yep. That’s your son. I know a father’s love is strong, but strong enough to completely disregard another human’s life? I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
At a One Direction concert, not asking to be raped.
My dad and my brother are the two most important men in my life. My parents raised us to stick up for ourselves, our beliefs and those around us and made sure that we knew right from wrong.
My dad would always tell me, and still continues to tell me, “I trust you, but I don’t trust those around you.” That statement has been burned into my mind for years and I never understood what he meant by it. I always knew I could protect myself and I have too much pride to think otherwise. At least I used to. But what would happen if I couldn’t and no one was around to help me? Would I be raped? Drugged? Killed?
My father and brother often bicker as fathers and sons do, but unlike Dan A. Turner, my father taught my brother that drunk does not mean “Yes.” And he, nor my brother certainly would never refer to a rape as “20 minutes of action.”
The victim released her very powerful and emotional court statement to Buzzfeed News — where she directly spoke to her rapist in court. I read this after my journalism adviser shared it on Facebook and was left in tears.
I was speechless. I shared it with my friends who all had similar reactions.
Buzzfeed News, June 3, 2016
The victim explains everything from the pine needles in her hair, to waking up on a gurney with lacerations and abrasions on her body, to reading about her own rape incident, to telling her loved ones the horror she went through, to the nightmare her life has been since then. She also mentions that, according to Brock, she liked it, to which she said:
“It’s like if you were to read an article where a car was hit, and found dented, in a ditch. But maybe the car enjoyed being hit. Maybe the other car didn’t mean to hit it, just bump it up a little bit. Cars get in accidents all the time, people aren’t always paying attention, can we really say who’s at fault.”
She was informed that the Turner family hired powerful attorneys, expert witnesses and private investigators who were going to try to prove this was all a misunderstanding and put the blame on her since, hey…she didn’t say no? According to Brock, he was just confused! One big misunderstanding, since she didn’t remember anything.
There’s a point where she said, “To listen to your attorney attempt to paint a picture of me, the face of girls gone wild, as if somehow that would make it so that I had this coming for me,” and I felt my head burst. It’s 2016 and we are still blaming drunk women and men for drinking too much and not being able to say “no,” when a stranger is penetrating them in any way. It is 2016 and instead of smashing rape culture, we perpetuate it.
However, she fought back and said, “Alcohol is not an excuse. Is it a factor? Yes. But alcohol was not the one who stripped me, fingered me, had my head dragging against the ground, with me almost fully naked. Having too much to drink was an amateur mistake that I admit to, but it is not criminal.”
As of right now, #BrockTurner is the #1 worldwide hashtag on Twitter. When media outlets fail to cover stories and report the truth, social media is where people go to learn more than what scratches the surface.
Social media is powerful. It is more powerful than print journalism, broadcast journalism and radio, because those with something to say can voice their opinions on topics without a filter. It is a universal platform where stories are uncovered and it brings rapists, like cockroaches, out of the corners where they can no longer hide.
Both the victim’s statement and Turner’s father’s statement went viral due to people sharing it and expressing their outrage for the situation as a whole.
In the statement, the victim talked about her younger sister and it made me think about my sister. She’s 11 and she may as well be an exact carbon copy of me. The biggest issue in her life right now is what phone case she wants to convince my mom into buying for her. I know her problems will become more important as she gets older, but I can never imagine having to explain to her that she needs to constantly live in fear of her surroundings.
In Santa Barbara for my friend’s birthday not asking to be raped.
I don’t want my sister, my future daughter, myself and the women of the world to live in fear that societies view on rape will always be, “Well, what was she wearing? Was she drinking? She probably wanted it.”
The feeling of safety that I once had is gone. It’s gone because I know if I were sexually assaulted, my side of the story and the pain I felt wouldn’t factor in because the Brock Allen Turners, his parents and the judges of the world would have assumed that, “I probably liked it.”
I applaud this strong individual for sharing her story and for facing her rapist and his unapologetic ways. I applaud her for staying strong through the past year. These were her last remarks.
And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought every day for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. As the author Anne Lamott once wrote, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you.