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Friday, August 23, 2019

Columns

Handling of Stanford swimmer case proves rape culture exists


After serving only three months out of a nine-month jail sentence for sexual assault, ex–Stanford swimmer Brock Turner has been released.

And somehow people still claim that rape culture is a myth.

Scrolling through comments on CNN is always interesting, but the vast amount of user posts supporting Turner on an opinion piece about justifying rape was ridiculous. Rape culture is disregarded as feminists being silly and paranoid, but it is a thing. Women have to deal with it every day.

Rape culture needs to stop, starting with us admitting that it exists.

A toxic culture

“(Rape culture is) a complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women,” wrote Emilie Buchwald in her book “Transforming a Rape Culture.”

The Women Against Violence Against Women group noted one of the many examples of rape culture is “the media’s constant glossing-over of sexual assault with euphemistic language: ‘inappropriate behaviour,’ ‘sexual misconduct,’ and even plain old ‘having sex.’”

Another given example is similar to how the media responded to the Turner case: “Major news outlets waxing sympathetic about how two teen rapists’ ‘promising’ lives will be destroyed by a youthful mistake, without once mentioning how the rape might affect the survivor.”

Sexually assaulting someone is hardly a “youthful mistake.” It’s an act of intentionally violating someone with the intent to commit rape. Nine out of 10 times, the attacker knows what they’re doing.

But Turner struck gold with Judge Aaron Persky.

With the defendant possibly facing up to six years in prison, Persky caused widespread outrage when he dealt Turner only a nine-month sentence and probation. Upon release, Turner also had to register as a sex offender.

Persky reasoned that a longer sentence would have impacted Turner’s future — a rationale that doesn’t consider the consequences suffered by the victim.

“That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life,” wrote Turner’s father in a letter as senseless as Persky’s verdict.

Twenty minutes is more than enough time to ruin someone’s life.

The victim loses twice

In all the uproar about Turner and the possibility of his future being “tarnished,” no one stopped think about the victim.

So, what about the victim? Many would argue that she shouldn’t have been at the party in the first place, or that she had no business partying around men.

How dare she be a normal university student.

In her impact statement, the victim asked that it be read directly to Turner: “On that morning, all that I was told was that I had been found behind a dumpster, potentially penetrated by a stranger, and that I should get retested for HIV because results don’t always show up immediately. But for now, I should go home and get back to my normal life.”

“Normal life.” Is that what they’re calling it after waking up somewhere alone, wondering if you’ve been violated and then having it confirmed?

That is rape culture: the idea that “boys will be boys.”

If a man happens to see an unconscious woman at a college party, they’re going to sexually assault her — and we’re going to condone it as a “youthful mistake?”

No.

People can’t just return to normal lives after being sexually violated. Since when has the idea of rape become the norm?

It has to be mentioned that Turner had no prior criminal history, but no father will ever look at his daughter’s rapist and think, “Hey, I’ll forgive the kid because he’s never sexually assaulted anyone else!”

No more taps on the wrist

Rape culture extends far past frat parties and court cases.

It’s everywhere and happening every day. Most men don’t see it simply because it doesn’t affect them beyond how they perceive women and their place in society.

Women see it in stores (rape kits, because it’s expected that men are going to do what men do), magazines (objectification) and news outlets (“poor Brock Turner and his future”). While women know rape culture when they see it, to say anything is to be accused of having feminist rants.

Yes, Turner’s life will be very different from now on, and registering as a sex offender is practically like stamping “PARIAH” on his forehead. But it’s not enough.

It’s not enough to ignore the impact that “youthful mistakes” have on the victim or what comes after for that person. We can make actual change by addressing the issue and prosecuting rapists justly.

Only then can we make reparations for a culture that has existed in this country for far too long.

Opinion Columnist Caprice Carter is a communication junior and can be reached at [email protected]

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