The Stanford Rape Victim’s Letter Is The Most Fucking Infuriating Thing You’ll Probably Ever Read

On Thursday, Brock Turner was sentenced to six months in a county jail and probation for raping a girl behind a dumpster, even though he faced up to 14 years in a state prison. The judge said that he thought a longer sentence would have a “severe impact” on Turner’s swimming career, since he planned one day to train for the Olympics. The victim’s letter to the ex-Stanford swimmer is moving, powerful, and outlines exactly why this whole story, and our rape culture, is completely fucked up. Turner was caught mid-rape by two men on bicycles. The woman was taken, unconscious, to a hospital where she picked pine needles out of her hair, according to her letter, and suffered every single indignity and injustice that every single victim of sexual assault faces. It’s disgusting.

What’s not disgusting is that the victim had the courage, despite her trauma, to stand up to her assailant in court. Buzzfeed obtained the letter she read in court in full and it is moving and infuriating and one of the smartest, most powerful statements about what happens when we let the fact that a victim cannot remember her assault and the courts allow the defendant to “fill in the blanks,” as she puts it.

Her statement to her assailant is not just eloquent — it’s angry. And it should be. I’m angry, too. She writes of the days following her attack, reading an article about herself:

And then, at the bottom of the article, after I learned about the graphic details of my own sexual assault, the article listed his swimming times. She was found breathing, unresponsive with her underwear six inches away from her bare stomach curled in fetal position. By the way, he’s really good at swimming. Throw in my mile time if that’s what we’re doing. I’m good at cooking, put that in there, I think the end is where you list your extracurriculars to cancel out all the sickening things that’ve happened.

She attacks his defense attorneys for putting the onus on her, because she was drunk. Apparently, she had “rubbed his back” and he thought that she liked it. She writes:

According to him, the only reason we were on the ground was because I fell down. Note; if a girl falls down help her get back up. If she is too drunk to even walk and falls down, do not mount her, hump her, take off her underwear, and insert your hand inside her vagina. If a girl falls down help her up. If she is wearing a cardigan over her dress don’t take it off so that you can touch her breasts. Maybe she is cold, maybe that’s why she wore the cardigan.

I like that she’s angry. Turner was caught red-handed, raping an unconscious girl. The judge said that a longer sentence was a punishment that didn’t fit the crime. So we now have another precedent where fancy lawyers, victim blaming, and bright futures make getting consent a secondary matter. We just sent a message to legions of men that if a girl is drunk, and your penis is erect, it doesn’t matter what state of mind she’s in, nor whether or not she’s capable of meaningful consent. It doesn’t matter what she does or does not remember, what she could and could not do, because it’s more important that you would suffer in jail. For raping someone.

Because the fact that he raped her is not in question. With the 6-month sentence, the legal system pretty much said that there are levels of rape. It was rape, totally, but it wasn’t like, rape-rape. OK, sure.

A very good, feminist, male friend of mine is currently in law school and just finished studying criminal law. One of his takeaways was that prosecuting rape in this country is very hard. But it’s not hard by default. It’s not like trying to figure out how to grow heirloom tomatoes on Mars. That is probably really hard.

We have made prosecuting rape hard by allowing judges and juries and public opinion to make a little shrug emoji and say, “Well, there was alcohol involved.” “Well, they’re kids.” “Well, you know how crazy frat parties get.” She was dancing. She was drunk. She peed outside and was drunk texting her boyfriend. I mean, who knows?! 

There’s more than a little misogyny buried under all of those statements. One human body was touched by another human being without the other’s consent. It’s a violation. It doesn’t matter how many shots of Bacardi 151 or whatever shitty alcohol Stanford kids drink, were being passed around. It’s not a blurry line when someone can’t speak for themselves or consent, and lawyers and judges who let alcohol get in the way of consent should be rounded up and sent to a far, far away place where they can get drunk and then be penetrated without their consent until they get the gist.

Brock was probably drunk enough, too, that maybe he doesn’t remember exactly what happened. But somewhere deep down in him, because of our culture, because of our legal system, that doesn’t matter. We now say it OK for women and girls to be found behind a dumpster — the most romantic of all spaces — without her underwear on if everyone was boozing a little too much.

The headlines focus on his “all American” swimming career. What’s really “all American” about this ordeal is that we let another person get away with something they shouldn’t have done. The law says rape gets you 14 years in prison in California. Just like if you take off in a race before the buzzer, you’re disqualified from the race. You stick your hands (or anything for matter) inside a vagina without getting consent, you go to prison. There’s nothing “hard” about that.

What’s sad is that there was no corruption or sneaky motives behind his light sentencing. It’s just plain old playing around with the law. You should read her whole letter, because it’s perfect, and should be passed around and read and referenced all over the place. But be prepared to be pissed off.