How the Brock Turner case might end up being a weirdly positive thing for a lot of people
There is nothing good about the Stanford rape case or anything having to do with the rape culture women are forced to endure across the country. But there might be one good thing about Brock Turner’s light sentencing and the Stanford victim’s retelling of her story that went viral this spring: more women (and some men) are starting to come forward, report, fight, and protest sexual assault and rape culture. It’s about fucking time this got the attention it deserves.
Yes, the end of rape culture altogether — like not having to convince people being drunk doesn’t imply consent or protecting athletes during football season shouldn’t be the first priority — would be much better, but it looks like we’re going to have to wait for that glorious day.
However, more women seem to be empowered to speak out in the wake of the collective conversation around the Stanford rape case. Much like social media and the ability to record video on smartphones has helped Black Lives Matter become a national conversation, social media and the public outrage surrounding Turner’s trial and sentencing has made reporting sexual assault more likely to get the public’s attention and actually lead to some action being taken for the survivor.
Because just like police brutality, rape (and covering it up or going easy on privileged white men) has been happening all this time, from the moment you entered into this dumpster fire we call the world. It’s not a new thing. But now people wants to hear about and talk about all the ways our system protects rapists and vilifies victims.
Much like the ubiquitous videos of police shootings and protests for Black Lives Matter can’t just wipe bigotry away, women coming forward with their stories and public outrage won’t just change rape culture. Yet. But if we stay angry long enough, if we try to educate people around us who just don’t get it, and protest when something is fucked up, we can maybe force institutions and the justice system into slow change.
Take the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill case this week for example.
Delaney Robinson, a student at UNC Chapel Hill, spoke out about her alleged sexual assault that happened last February; she went to the press this week to say she has been trying for months to file formal charges and get the school to take action. Robinson said in a statement, “I did everything a rape victim is supposed to do. I reported it. I allowed the rape kit to be taken. I gave a statement. I cooperated with law enforcement and the Title IX office. But six months later the University has done nothing.” The school responded by saying it “takes all allegations about sexual violence or sexual misconduct extremely seriously” but it’s the university’s “priority to ensure that the factual investigations are complete and conducted in a fair and thorough manner.”
There’s video of officials joking with the alleged assailant telling him not to worry. So far, it appears like an egregious case of malpractice by the university and the police. But she went public this week and the football player was suspended from the team and charged with a misdemeanor.
This is what I’m talking about. It took ages, but Robinson showed UNC she’s not afraid, and in this post-Brock Turner climate, universities cannot afford to do nothing. They have to at least pretend they care about the victim. Fake it till you make it, right?
There would have been a time that coming forward and speaking to the media like that would have been fruitless (and it still might be; the case might never get to trial and the alleged rapist might be back on the field by Halloween), but now we can retweet the story and talk about it and get angry if no one takes action. Now we know their names.
College campuses are a swampy breeding ground for all of the privilege and misogyny that goes into perpetuating rape culture, which is why it’s empowering to see some action being taken by students and universities this fall. The University of Quebec expelled students for creating a game that promotes rape culture. Over 900 hundred women at the University of Pennsylvania signed a petition, sent to the administration and the governor, no less, after a frat sent an email to women inviting them to come to a party dressed promiscuously and saying not to “tease” their male hosts. The women plastered the campus with a copy of the email.
According to a recent study, about one third of UPenn’s female students have been sexually assaulted. You never heard about those cases, but it’s likely we’ll hear about some now. Believe me, it’s sickening to think that more victims’ lives have to be in danger or destroyed before any real change happens — just like it’s sickening that police had to kill so many unarmed black men to start a conversation about racism and police brutality.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, but the Stanford rape case seemed to be a tipping point.