Over the past few weeks, I've been working very hard to get City of Secrets ready for release. I've been more excited than I can probably convey, and because of that, I've had a bit of a one-track mind about it. I've been buzzing like a bee working on the outline, blurb, chapters, and blog posts, and it all feels like such a big deal to me that I fell into the mindset that this story is the entire world, that what's important to me is the entire world. I'm sure this is something that we all do from time to time. We're all focused on the things that are important to us, and sometimes it's easy to forget about everything else.
There's a lot going on in the world right now--there always is, really, but over the past couple days some things have gotten my attention that I can't get off my mind. The one I'd like to talk about right now is the case of Brock Turner, the former Stanford University swimmer convicted of several sexual assault felonies. The case has been all over the news and social media over the past several days, so it's likely that you've heard about it. If you haven't, here is an article about it:
http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/06/us/sexual-assault-brock-turner-stanford/ because I don't have it in me to write out the details, I just want to talk about it, or more accurately, rant about it.
Sure, lots of people have been talking and ranting and raving about it. So, why should I? Well, because I don't think enough can be said about this, or the injustice here. We can't be silent. We need to speak up, and keep speaking up, and speaking up some more, and then some more until things like this stop happening, until rapists are properly punished, until victims are unafraid to come forward, until rape stops happening, until victims are no longer blamed because of alcohol, clothing, flirting, or whatever stupid reason someone wants to come up with to blame the victim, until white people (or anyone) who had promising futures are not given lenient sentences, until athletes (or anyone) are not given lenient sentences, until rape and sexual assault on college campuses stops, and the list goes on. And on. So, anyone who is outraged and who has a voice or a computer or a phone or a tablet to type with should say something or share something that someone else has said or let it be known in some way that this isn't right, that this is wrong and that this is not going to be stood for anymore.
This is not going to be one of my usual eloquent posts and it is probably not going to be as shiny and polished as usual. I'm angry. I've been angry. I'm tired of being angry. Every time I see Turner's picture across social media it makes my insides twists. There's been some controversy over his mugshot. Apparently it was kept hidden for awhile, and the assumption going around was that it was to protect his pretty little white boy athlete image, and that sending that "sweet" smiling photo of him was to keep protecting that image. Well, for a lot of people that probably worked and it's just yet another load of bullshit in this whole stupid case. But for me, it didn't work. That smiling picture makes me even more sick than the one where he isn't smiling. I guess it's because I know he isn't that nice, innocent person.
The prosecutor in the case asked for a six year sentence. The judge gave Turner six months, stating something along the lines of: Turner had a promising future and it would be a shame to further ruin that (that was not a direct quote. I took that from my memory of the articles that I'd read). Now, the judge was within his rights to assign a lesser sentence. It's his job. But to go from the six years asked to six months? That is ridiculously extreme. Yes, he was taking into account that Turner had no priors, but it was still an insane extreme and it sends a detrimental message and only serves to further promote rape culture. Thanks, Persky Great job.
It isn't just Turner who is getting off with a slap on the wrist. Rape is a huge problem, bigger than statistics show, because many victims never report that they were raped. Rape on college campuses and at college parties is a huge problem, one that people are trying to put an end to. Men are marching around college campuses chanting "No means yes, yes means anal" and here comes this judge with an opportunity to show these men (and women) that sexual assault will not be tolerated. What does he do? He gives the guy the most lenient sentence he could've possibly given. What message does that send? That sexual assault isn't really that big a deal, and sure, you'll get in trouble, but not that much trouble.
How else is this sentence detrimental? It tells victims that they aren't going to be taken seriously. That the pain and suffering of a trial might not get them anywhere. They've suffered enough with their assault, going through the pain of a trial would be bad enough even with the guarantee that their rapist would go punished, but not having that guarantee? Many of them might decide it isn't worth it, especially considering that just reporting the rape and going through the exam is so traumatizing it's like being raped all over again. Read it. It's in the article I linked above and it sounds horrifying.
The letter the victim wrote to the judge is powerful and emotional. If Judge Persky had even a modicum of understanding of what she went through that night, of what she continued to go through, of what she is going through right now, and what is will continue to go through for years, he would not have handed out the sentence that he did. He just wouldn't have. She will never get over it. She will never be the same.
The lack of punishment is absolutely disgusting and I'm outraged.
I know that the victim is hurting, and that she's suffered, and that she continues to suffer in ways I know and in ways I don't know, in ways I can imagine and in ways I can't begin to imagine. But I want her to know that she's not alone. Many people are supporting her. I know it doesn't change anything, but I hope it's at least something. She's not at fault, she didn't do anything wrong, and even though it might not feel like it right now, it will get better.
I want to end this on a positive note by praising Carl-Fredrik Arndt and Peter Jonsson, the two men who caught Turner in the act, chased him, and held him down until police arrived.
Apparently, at first it looked like two drunk people messing around. They didn't realize at first the victim was unconscious. They didn't have to check on her, but they did. They didn't have to go after Turner--he could've been dangerous--but they did. Sometimes the world just feels like a shitty place that I don't want to live in, especially with people like Brock Turner in it, and people like Judge Persky who let people like Turner get away with things. But then people like Arndt and Jonsson come along, and I'm reminded that there are good people in the world, and that's what helps me survive.