I don’t remember a time when a story has fully consumed me the way Brock Turner’s story has. Whenever my brain has a free time it defaults to thinking about it. Thinking about the act itself. Thinking about the victim. Thinking about the judge’s verdict. Thinking about the outpouring of righteous anger that has washed over the world in response to everything that has happened and everything that hasn’t.
My heart keeps asking me “why has this affected you so much? Why is this different from all the other devastating stories of tragedy?” and I think I finally have a complicated answer.
It has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that white privilege and male privilege exist. They are no longer an abstract concept to be debated in college classrooms. They are very real, very tangible entities that have ruined Brock Turner’s victim’s life. Whereas I always knew these atrocities existed, I remorsefully never get them much thought. Now, though, after reading about how a rich, white man sexually assaulted an unconscious woman behind a dumpster and was given barely a slap on the wrist as punishment, I can no longer live a life thiinking these privileges aren’t impacting the world we live in, the world my children are growing up in.
This victim’s letter to Turner has also had a profound impact on me. I wasn’t in the courtroom. I don’t know anyone personally who has been raped. I’ve never been exposed to the entire arc of the story. The rape to trial to verdict. Brock Turner’s victim opened the eyes of all of us to understand exactly what happens to a woman who comes forward and faces her accuser. Her letter made the whole story so much more real and sad and infuriating. A story that could have easily been buried by mainstream media was brought to the surface and remained there because we can all feel her emotions and understand that this is a human being who endured all this. A living, breathing, crying, pained human being.
And this story has drastically changed how I will raise my children. Of course I have always planned on talking about consent with both my daughter and son, but this story has made this future talk to be of the utmost importance. It is vital that my daughter know that no one is allowed to touch her in a way that she does not consent to regardless of what she is wearing, how much she drinks, if she’s by herself or at a party. No one is allowed to touch her unless she says it’s okay and if someone does, she must know that we as a family will do everything in our power to ensure that she is taken care of and justice is served.
And it will be drilled into my son’s head what consent is, what it looks like, and what it does not look like. He will be taught to respect women, to protect them if they need protecting, and to save them if they need saving. He will also know that should he ever commit such a heinous act, neither me nor his father will tell the world it was just “20 minutes of action.” Rape is brutal, life-altering assault and will never be defended because it could have a “severe impact” on him.
Brock Turner’s story is everywhere and I am thankful for that. It has forced me to confront my fears, my uneducated thoughts, my parenting. I know it’s easy to tune it out, to scroll past the headlines, but I implore you to keep reading about it. It is only through seeing, reading, feeling what happened that we can make a change.