On Anger, Stanford Justice, and Calling a Spade a Spade

I have things to do this week, and other things I wanted to write, but I’m slamming dishes and cutlery so hard in my kitchen right now that the children are looking nervous. Yes, Mommy is angry. Mommy is more than angry. Mommy is FURIOUS.

195629063_2226295908_zI’m angry because in the last two days I have read a handful of articles on what happened when star Stanford swimmer, Brock Allen Turner, was on trial for sexual assault. A woman was at a party with her sister. Like everyone else at the party, they drank too much. But for this one woman, she landed up unconscious behind a dumpster while young Mister Turner shoved his fingers and various other objects (like pine needles. PINE NEEDLES, people!) into her vaginal cavity. The woman’s statement is here (Read it. And make your teens and college age kids read it, too.)

This is why I went to law school, friends. Because when I was sixteen I was already furious about harm done to women and children, and how justice was so inaccessible in so many situations. Women are disbelieved, and abused, and it should not be so. That the law had the ability and the mandate to protect the weakest called to my inner core. I wanted to be on the side of justice. I wanted young women who were pulled behind dumpsters in the dark of night to be able to see their perpetrators punished.

The judge handed down his verdict in the Turner trial: six months for sexual assault, including probation. Sexual assault, even though his offense meets the FBI’s updated definition of rape, and no one has EVER contested that he did in fact do it. The judge didn’t want the perpetrator to have to suffer “too severe” consequences for his actions….

… and this, friends, is where I start to slam dishes in the kitchen. And this is why I quit law: because for all the good that the law can do, in the hands of persuasive lawyers and evidential sleights of hand and spin-in-arguments, justice is so often not done. The victim’s character landed up being on trial. And the perpetrator, after all was said and done, “regretted his night of drinking.”

Not, “regretted his actions in sexually assaulting a woman”.

No, “regretted his night of drinking”.

Just to be clear: drinking is not a crime. Sexual Assault is. Let’s call a spade a spade, folks. But why are we surprised? The perpetrator’s father issued his own statement in which he expresses regret that his son got the harsh sentence he did: “this is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action.”

Not, “this is a steep price to pay for sexually assaulting a woman.”

No, “for 20 minutes of action.”

(you need to picture the sound track in my kitchen. slam. crash. slam.)

As if rape were a quick game of tennis. Or a couple minutes of pick-up basketball with a mate. Not STRIPPING AN UNCONSCIOUS WOMAN and dry humping her in the dark while you shove things up her. By that definition, “twenty minutes of action” could be a shooting spree at a high school, or dicing your friend on the highway at 130 miles per hour while you wind down from your evening of draining a keg. No effing way. Nope.

I wonder what that Father would have called it if it had been his daughter who had gone to a party at college, had too much to drink, and been pulled behind a dumpster? Do you think he would have dismissed it as “twenty minutes of action” and told his daughter to just get over it? I’m willing to bet he would have been crying for blood. Because what you CALL a thing says a great deal about what you believe about a thing. And “sexual action” isn’t the same as “sexual assault.” Being drunk is not the same as being a rapist.

Sin is sin. Rape is rape. Assault is assault. Trauma is trauma.

And Justice should be justice.

Maybe there’s a time for euphemisms: like when we tell our little kids that someone is “sick” instead of “terminally ill”, or “people hurting each other” instead of “genocide”. But there comes a time when we need to grow up and call a spade a spade. We need to name assault (or racism! or misogyny!) for what it is, because failure to do so perpetuates rape culture and myriad other injustices.

I’m not usually a fan of people filing civil claims for punitive damages, but as in the case of OJ Simpson, I hope this woman sues the pants off Brock Turner. Or at least, sues the smarmy smile off his face.

13 thoughts on “On Anger, Stanford Justice, and Calling a Spade a Spade

  1. HELL YES TO ALL OF THIS!!!

    You know, if it were MY son who had done this, my heart would be broken but I would NOT be issuing statements about ’20 minutes of action’. ACTION?? 20 MINUTES OF ACTION IS A FLIPPING FAST 5K RACE! And that is why it’s so important we kick up a storm about this, because there are still people out there who think of it as ACTION!

  2. Great post, Bronwyn. You’ve nailed it here. I read another quote on Twitter today about how this case shows that in rape culture, men have “potential,” women have “a past.” This has to stop.

  3. spot on, and I am right there with you. It is with utter disbelief that I have carried on with my days since hearing that news. Why do we still think this is OK in 21st century America?

  4. Bronwyn. I share your outrage. I hate how both the father and his son spoke. I assume that they have been advised by Counsel not to make a direct admission.
    I also just want to note that having to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life, is a HARD punishment. I work with those people every day. They cannot find jobs, they cannot find places to work, he will never be able to go to his kids’ school. He will never be able to attend any of his child’s birthday parties or go see a sport match. He IS being punished for the rest of his life.
    As I work on the other side of the fence – with the offenders, I see many changed people who serve harsh punishments with humility and dignity and many lead more meaningful lives than lots of people on the outside.
    I pray for both him and the victim. And I pray specifically for God’s grace and mercy in this situation too.

    • Registering as a sex offender is not a punishment, it is a protection to others, a warning that a crime against our weakest was commented and hopes that it won’t again.

  5. Sometimes we do run into a “he said/she said” events but this is clearly not the case. As you said, the facts are not in dispute. While I appreciate that a sex offender “status” is very painful it would seem that America needs to make an example that there are enormous potential consequences to some instances of 20 minutes of “action”. 🙁

  6. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing when I heard this on the radio yesterday. A drunk girl at a party should be taken care in such way as holding her hair if she is puking or making sure she gets home safe. That upsets me to hear his punishment that’s a small slap on the hand and a huge slap in the girls face. Wow is this what we have come to on protecting our young ladies and woman….WOW. that’s exactly why I’m a Damsel Pro with Damsel in Defense to help get the word out to woman on the importance of their safety and self defense. http://www.mydamselpro.net/Hopper

  7. I have been trying to find a response to all of this. The fact that there was even a question of whether or not she consented disgusts me. I’m sorry, but if she was drunk enough that she couldn’t remember, she was drunk enough to be unable to consent. The torture that this woman endured by having to repeatedly defend herself, knowing that her pain is real and yet having to prove it multiple times over, having the details of the night negated by the fact that she could not remember them and that she had a past, all while struggling to figure out who she is now and how this changes and shapes her identity brings me to tears. Bronwyn, I share your outrage and my heart is broken for this woman. As I have had to say to defend myself, the accusation of this man is severe, the charges are steep, but we all know that, and no woman would consider pressing those charges, especially against someone they didn’t know, unless the actions were just as severe. This man raped her. She would not have gone through this unless it was true. And since it is true, he deserves at least the mandatory minimum sentence for his crimes. My heart continues to break for her.

  8. What about taking the time to write real letters of protest. I see comments and pictures all over social media and wonder how this young woman is supposed to be able to move forward if we continually post HER story so publically. Well intended, I can understand, but is it creating an inability of this young woman to escape, for even a moment, her very real anguish by checking in on FB as the distraction from life we use it as every day? Let’s really care for her and send letters and petitions where the might do some real good.

  9. We had a situation here last week on one of the TV news shows. They had a segment on the difficulty law officers are having dealing with repeat sex offenders. They referenced one such individual who had twelve – twelve – such offenses. In his remarks on this, the officer commenting said, “At some point, you run into the constitutional rights of the offenders.” Yes, that’s what he said. I couldn’t believe it! Not a word about his victims. I’ve contended for a long time that “the Law” cares more about criminals than it does about their victims. I think it’s high time to take our “justice” system out of the hands of criminals and their attorneys!

  10. Some ugly truths for you. Our Constitution was written with the design to protect the defendant, not the victim. That is why the defendant has the right to face their accuser, a trial of their peers, the right to remain silent, etc. It was a crime for him to drink. He is under 21. Minor detail, I know. The big deal for me on your post that struck a nerve that will anger some people is that I think it is harder for boys to get over sexual abuse than girls or women. When it is discovered, every woman/Gil has access to a host of rape crisis venues for help. There is a legion of women there to help. For boys, there is next to nothing. You were molested, boy? Too bad you want me to get you a hankie? If the kid is lucky, there might be a Pastor to talk to, but don’t bet on it. I know. I lived it as a kid. Btw, I was molested by an older boy. When I was in my mid twenties, I was blessed to meet such a pastor. He wrote a booklet entitled, How To Be Free From Bitterness. You can download it for free.

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