The Brock Turner rape conviction and shocking sentence of 6 months in jail has been getting lots of attention over the past week. It has flooded traditional and social media with coverage, blogs, response, and outrage. This has crossed over to attention from the general public, and not just those who do advocacy and prevention on this issue. When issues like this garner larger public attention it is an opportunity to engage folks who don’t generally engage in these conversations. While posts about this have flooded my social media feeds, I was reminded that not everyone has access to or pays attention to the advocacy and prevention folks that I do and have the privilege of being aware of. So here are some places I would point folks who are not so familiar about the topic of sexual violence who are looking to explore this more related to this case.
First Read the Survivor’s Story
Rarely do we get such public personal and detailed survivor stories. This is a powerful story highlighting the victim blaming that is done by perpetrators, criminal justice system, media, those close to survivors, and even internally. A powerful account of the impact of sexual violence and the impact of what comes afterward as well.
Or Listen to Ashleigh Banfield Read It
And here is VP Joe Biden’s open letter to the survivor. No one should overlook Biden’s role in passing the Violence Against Women’s Act. I have no doubt that the White House attention on this issue is a productive of Joe Biden’s initiative, passion, and influence.
The Systemic Failure’s of the Criminal Justice System
What is unusual about this case is – the conviction. In this case there is medical evidence and two witnesses. This is highly unusual in sexual assaults that happen on college campuses. Convictions of sexual violence in criminal courts are exceedingly rare.
I’ve had police officers who work exclusively with sexual assault cases be clear with survivors that their chances in the criminal justice system are limited and describe with great care and empathy how traumatic the criminal justice experience could be. I’ve also had prosecutor’s share with me just how absolutely clear it is to them that what has been reported is sexual assault according to statute, but “there is no way I could get 12 people in a jury to agree.” This is another consequence of how we are all mis-educated by the rape culture. Not only does this mis-education lead to perpetration and victim blaming, it also makes it hard for systems to hold people accountable – even when they want to hold people accountable.
The Role of Campuses in Sexual Violence Response
You may hear folks respond to the increased media attention around sexual violence on campus with, “why are campuses adjudicating these crimes, they should report it to the police.” Well, campuses don’t adjudicate crimes they adjudicate violations of campus policies. Totally different. Two separate processes. Good campus processes will make the options for reporting to the police in addition to a campus process available to those who report sexual violence. However, we need to be aware that if the criminal justice system results in conviction in less that 1% of rapes that occur and when they do they result in six month jail sentences, that it is not a very good system.
Here is Stanford University‘s description of their response on this incident.
The Role of Rape Culture
Rape culture is the culture that encourages, condones, and teaches sexual violence. Rape culture is at the root of what led to what happened, contributed to the victim blaming after the fact, made the criminal justice process so difficult for the survivor, makes convictions so unusual, and led to the judge’s ridiculous sentence of six months for a violent rape behind a dumpster with medical evidence and two witnesses who chased the perpetrator off.
Here is my TEDx Talk highlighting the root causes of sexual violence and what we can do to be proactive.
If you really want to get at the roots of rape culture, check out this post. Especially good for parents.
And this, from father to father.
The Complex Role of Alcohol in Sexual Violence
Rape culture also teaches us that alcohol helps us hook-up rather than the reality which is that alcohol can make it impossible for someone to be able to give informed consent. The regular refrain we learn is that if someone isn’t interested, buy them another drink. This is rape culture. Here is a post from my friend Troy Headrick who is the reason I got involved in sexual violence prevention 20 years ago.
Here is another one from prevention educator Aaron Boe.
We also blame victims for being intoxicated, which we don’t do with other crimes. This image makes this point quickly.
The Role of Privilege and Sexism, Racism, Classism, Heterosexism, Genderism in Sexual Violence
The public and criminal justice reaction to alleged perpetrators varies based on race.
And here is a provocative idea about addressing the role of privilege. I’m not sure Brock Turner speaking on college campuses is the answer, but addressing what is going on with those in the dominant group cannot be ignored.
There is good news here as well. Two individuals who passed by saw what was happening, were concerned, and took action. Good prevention efforts try to reach potential perpetrators and work to empower the entire campus community to speak up and intervene directly in assaults like this and indirectly in the jokes and derogatory comments that create a culture where sexual violence is encouraged, condoned, minimized, normalized, and made invisible.
If you have content that you think should be included, please add it in the comments. I’ll review and update periodically.