By Tiara Dewintha
Brock Turner is not a monster. He is an ordinary, white, well-off, well-educated young man who happens to be good at swimming. He is a criminal who committed a terrible crime, but he is not a monster. The fact that he isn’t a monster though makes it even scarier. Brock Turner is the norm. A lot of men can be Brock Turner. A lot of men ARE Brock Turner. I’ve met a lot of Brock Turners in my life.
From the judge who let him get off with 6 months in prison. To his father who claimed that 6 months was too harsh for “20 minutes of action.” And the defense attorney who made the victim relive every moment of her rape in a courtroom.
These men and others like them all subscribe to the belief that a woman’s life isn’t as important as or equal to a man’s. It isn’t that Brock Turner is mentally ill or a “psychopath,” that would be an insult to all people who actually suffer from mental illness. Brock Turner, like many other men, was raised to believe that if he was a “successful” man (in his case, a star athlete), what woman wouldn’t want to sleep with him? Clearly she was enjoying it, how could she not? Or did he just assume that she was?
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what was actually going through his head that night. The fact of the matter is he raped an unconscious woman and thought it was ok to do so. And then other men (and women) rushed to his defense. He was taught, and now it is being proven, that this is his world. It’s a
man’s world. And now other men are going to see this story and think “As long as I have a ‘future,’ it doesn’t really matter what I do. I will be forgiven.”
This is a problem that does not exist within just Brock Turner, but one that runs through the very fabric of our society. Remember that Brock Turner is a well-educated man and this is the education he and many of us have received. How can you not believe a man’s life is more valuable when you see tragedies such as this? It not only hurts the poor woman and her loved ones who have to watch her rapist walk free in six months, but it also hurts a young 13-year-old boy raped by his teacher, someone he was supposed to trust, while other men say “Nice work kid!” or “Man, he got lucky!” because if he’s a man, clearly nothing would ever happen without his consent. It hurts all of us and it will continue to hurt us unless we do some serious overhaul in the way we educate our children, our students, our peers, our family, and ourselves.
Ending patriarchy is about removing barriers for people of all gender identities and intersectionalities. By patriarchy, I mean male supremacy; I mean a society where every avenue of power – especially mainstream institutions of power – is overwhelmingly dominated by mostly male entitlement. Immediately after I was raped I didn’t like being called a survivor. I didn’t like to think of myself as someone who survived something in the way that people survive car crashes or natural disasters. I wanted to be looked at someone who was purposely victimized by another person. But the more time passes the more I am embracing the term survivor. I think because I’ve realized that being a survivor is not just about being victimized. It’s about living every day hearing people blame victims for what happened to them and it’s killing you so bad inside. It’s about sitting in rooms with men (and women) that out themselves as rape apologists (or worse). It’s about existing in a society with trauma, and living every day fighting against a society that tells you your trauma does not exist, that it didn’t happen, that what you feel is invalid. That night, a man manipulated me, robbed everything away from me and broke me so perfectly. But I won’t let the patriarchal world kill me.
Lastly, this is my message to women, and everyone else reading this. Where do we go from here? These are the particulars of a case that has sparked deep emotions in millions of Americans and outside of the United States, myself included. In parents sending their sons and daughters off to college. In women who have been sexually assaulted. In people of all ethnicities, who have ever been subjected to unequal treatment because of gender, race,
status or beliefs. And although it would be easy to jump on the bandwagon of fear, hate and frustration, it’s important to take a step back and observe ourselves. We are but mirrors of the deeper pain lying dormant inside, and in moments like these, what bubbles up from within is trying to teach us something.
This woman’s bravery has stirred something so fiercely potent within me. But just as I wanted to send streams of negative energy towards Brock Turner and join the masses in crying out in rage, I caught myself. Because I realized that inflicting more pain doesn’t create healing. Love creates healing. And love doesn’t even have to look like understanding or forgiveness or even condoning. When the wounds are fresh and the pain is deep, love can simply be an act of going within and pulling closer to the truths in our own lives.
It is the tenderness I’m holding for myself as old emotions bubble to the surface in relation to this case and my own abuse I’ve endured. It is the deep breaths I’ve been taking when the feelings of judgment have wanted to overtake me. It is patience and presence and a whole lot of reflection. I am painfully aware of how lucky I’ve been. And how sick it makes me to write that. This is the reality of rape culture. It is not that all men are terrible, oppressive predators — it is simply that too many of us grow up knowing that if we let our guard down, any man could become someone to be afraid of. We have learnt this because friends and families and strangers have crossed the line, and every time that happens, we learn to be a little more guarded. Sometimes we don’t even realize it .
Rape culture systematically shrinks your world. Through movies and music videos and friendships and strangers, you learn that your comfort and safety simply comes second. If at all. I learned all of this through my abuse. Today, as I read the sentence for a man who was convicted of rape, who was caught in the act, I am…disgusted, disheartened…and not at all surprised. Because the flip side of this kind of culture is that men like Judge Persky, Brock Turner — and his father, based on his letter defending his son’s “20 minutes of action” — are honestly unable to recognize what was taken that night, and what was lost. To blame it on alcohol. To ask, at least, for shared responsibility — with an unconscious woman. I felt silenced by the decision that a young man’s loss of appetite was more important than a young woman’s loss of personal safety. I deeply feel for other women are going through.
I want to end this by saying that hopefully, this case will spark a much needed cultural shift. I want to say that I hope the outrage about the leniency of Turner’s sentence will instigate conversations between fathers and sons — instead of just being another message to women about being responsible and
cautious, always. I want to say that hopefully Judge Persky will be removed, sending a clear message that as a society, we demand harsher penalties for convicted rapists. And as the victim so eloquently quoted, may we “stand there shining” like lighthouses. May we find the light within ourselves and shine it brightly for others to see. But right now, ending with “I hope” feels empty. I know too many people who don’t have that luxury. Not anymore.