You Need To Read This Letter From The Stanford Rape Survivor’s Sister

Last week, court documents pertaining to the sexual assault case involving Brock Turner were released to the public. An emotional letter by the anonymous survivor addressed to the convicted rapist himself recently went viral, as it revealed the severe impact what Turner’s father disgustingly called “20 minutes of action” had on her. But the sister of Turner’s victim wrote an impassioned letter that deserves your attention too. She alleged that at the same party, Turner had grabbed her waist and kissed her without her consent before proceeding to assault her sister, according to The Los Angeles Times.

“I went home from school that weekend to spend time with my sister. And I did get to be with her — laugh with her, enjoy her weirdness, and be happy the way we always are when we’re together. Never did I imagine I would have to pick her up from the hospital the next morning,” she begins, recounting the innocent start of a day that reflects how unexpectedly traumatic experiences like sexual assault strike.

“My message to Brock Turner is that the damage you inflicted is irreversible. What has affected me most is that you did something to someone I love that I cannot take back,” she continues later in the letter. It’s worth noting that while sexual assault obviously has a severe, direct impact on victims and their physical and mental health, the trauma also severely impacts all of those who care about them, or, specifically in this case, the victim’s sister.

Turner’s disgracefully short sentence ultimately reflects the dismissiveness with which both society and the American justice system regard rape and sexual violence. The fact that Brock Turner is being sent to jail for a few months because prison would have “a severe impact on him” sends the message that being sexually assaulted doesn’t severely impact victims, and additionally tells rape victims that even if they do report their experiences and are actually believed, by no means does that mean justice will be served. The sister of his victim couldn’t be more right: the damage he’s inflicted is truly “irreversible.”

She continues:

“Those moments that you assaulted her were just the beginning … When I read the comments about how it was just ‘two drunk kids who made a mistake,’ I feel such intense hopelessness that there will always be people like you, who believe alcohol can dismiss perverted, harmful, sickening actions. You saw a drunk girl alone, incapacitated why would you not try to find her friends? I was trying to find her. Where has your remorse been? Really, truly: do you feel guilty because you were sexually assaulting her, or because you were caught?”

The most prevalent form of rape is date rape, which is precisely what happened to Turner’s victim. But as her sister points out, disturbing misconceptions about consent continue to make men and women everywhere vulnerable to assault, only for their experiences to be casually dismissed as “20 minutes of action” because of enduring ignorance about affirmative consent. In no world should alcohol be used to dismiss “perverted, harmful, sickening actions” like Turner’s, and yet to Judge Aaron Persky, because Turner’s victim wasn’t even able to actively struggle or say no, his actions don’t fully constitute rape and don’t deserve full punishment.

Ignorance about consent has serious, real-world consequences, and frankly, outcomes like this make me feel “intense hopelessness,” too. Victims of date rape are too often blamed for their experiences, as if it’s their fault for having a drink and not their attacker’s fault for drugging and raping them, but cases like this, where date rape simply isn’t taken seriously, are equally disappointing.

The full letter from the survivor’s sister is available here.