*Disclaimer: If you are unfamiliar with the story, you can catch up here.
Photograph: Dan Honda/AP
Dear Dan Turner,
You don’t know me, much like how your son, Brock, didn’t know the unconscious woman he raped. I understand how disappointing it may be to have these charges brought against your son, how much you must be wallowing in denial over the convictions, how smug you must feel about his slap on the wrist. I know how you must have sat in disbelief when Brock was arrested, “not my son, not my boy- he wouldn’t,” or the possible “some bitch wants to get him in trouble.” I know, because I have boys, and I know, that as feminist as I am, I would never want to believe that my children are capable of something as vile and abhorrent as rape.
I know you don’t know what it’s like to be a woman or a rape victim, and I’m going to guess that’s a reality you would never even begin to conceive or empathize with. But I would ask, if humanly possible, for you to step outside of yourself and your little world where your son can’t enjoy his steak anymore and put yourself in the shoes of someone else, someone you may be able to relate to better—the victim’s father.
You see, this man is also in turmoil over this case. This man, the father of two girls, has always worried about their safety and vulnerability, always hoped and prayed that no one would ever violate one of his princesses. Unfortunately, he has the monumental displeasure of looking at his daughter with full knowledge of the details of the assault. Picturing his daughter unconscious, legs splayed, being violated behind a dumpster. He had the displeasure of sitting through your sons trial, having to listen to your high-dollar, hand-picked attorney attack his little girl’s character, morals, judgement, and story. He had to sit there, helplessly, while his daughter’s life was picked through and exposed in an effort to justify your son being caught penetrating her unconscious body. He has wished that he could have been there to stop it, or to run after your son as he fled in cowardice. Can you imagine? You speak of your son’s loss of appetite, his depression, his sullen demeanor– with zero regard to what the victim is going through emotionally and physically. Her father has to deal with that. The depression, the shame (because we live in a society that shames rape victims—you should know, your attorney did it), the body dysmorphia, the issues with trust and intimacy. Your son has 3 months in jail and the requirement to register as a sex offender, and you’re UPSET about that sacrifice? His daughter has a lifetime of trauma to recover from. How long will it take your Ivy League, All-American boy to get a new girlfriend or hook up at another party? How long will it be before the victim can have sex again with her boyfriend without associating intimacy with this assault, or be able to look in a mirror and not see herself as dirty and used? Which one is worse?
Now, you want Brock to go to schools “educating” on the dangers of drinking and promiscuity? Because those are the things that led him to rape? Why doesn’t he go to schools to talk about consent, instead? What it is, what it isn’t, and how not having consent can ruin lives. Alcohol didn’t rape a girl, your son was sober enough to run (unlike the victim), and this had nothing to do with promiscuity—aside from the fact he couldn’t find someone conscious to try to be promiscuous with. Your son, Brock Turner, violated another human being with his genitals. Maybe THAT is what he should be talking about. Or how about how “barely conscious” or “not un-conscious yet” does not mean “yes.” I’d love to sit down at a pep-rally and hear from a rapist about how too drunk to stand up or speak clearly is too drunk to fuck. Because that is culpability, that is responsibility, and that is where the lesson is. Brock, your son, assumed he could do what he wanted with someone else’s body without their permission. And you, Mr. Turner, are culpable, too. You have allowed your son to exist in a world where the rules don’t apply to him, you have deemed him too good to face the consequences of his actions, and sadly, a judge went along with it. A young, educated, affluent white man gets a slap on the wrist. I have to ask what do you think would have happened if your son was black and poor? Would you be writing statements about how he doesn’t steal your snacks anymore? Or would you be defending yourself from an outraged public, accusing you of raising a rapist and a thug? But I digress, I don’t expect you to even acknowledge your privilege exists, let alone understand it or think about it.
I know it’s really sad, and I’m sure you have a lot of feelings that are confusing and distressing, but nowhere does that give you the right to ask for compassion for Brock and his now, less than grand, outlook. He raped a woman. His life SHOULD change. He SHOULD have to face the consequences. You choose to go to trial and to have your attorney force a victim to further engulf herself in the trauma of her assault. You choose to try to blame her, shame her, demean her, and vilify her. Shame on you—any sympathy I may have ever had for you went out the window with your victim blaming and your son’s short sentence.
Here is the difference between you and me: should one of my sons commit rape—however outside of his character—and be convicted of said rape, I would want him to be sentenced appropriately. I would want him to confess, to show remorse, to get down on his goddamned hands and knees and beg the victim for forgiveness from the very depths of his soul. Because rape isn’t just a physical, sexual, drunken accident of a crime. Rape is intrinsically invasive and emotionally damaging. It is the theft of personhood and autonomy. Of course, I love my son, but as a young man and adult, he will be culpable for his own actions. If he gets in trouble for a PI or a minor offense, mommy may bail him out. But not for this, not for sexual assault, not for the trauma he may cause another person. Now, hopefully, the likelihood of this happening is nonexistent. Like so many other women, I have been sexually assaulted. And like so many other women, I never reported it. This fact, however, has a tremendous impact on how I’m raising my children. My two boys learn about consent every single day. They know that if they do not want somebody touching them, even somebody they love trying to give them a hug, then they have every right to say no. Their body is THEIRS and no one has a right to it. They know that if they want to touch or hug someone (even their sister and cousins) and that person says “no,” or “get off,” or “don’t touch me,” then they have NO right to touch them and better back off. My sons are being taught, every single day, that girls are powerful and strong and smart just like they are, and that girls should be listened to and respected just like they want to be. When their sister is changing clothes and wants privacy, leave her alone. She has to do the same for them. My kids will never be taught to assume that their gender, their abilities, their education, their good standing in society, or any other characteristics will make it okay for them to take from someone else what they want or keep them from the consequences of their actions.
So please, spare us the statements and the appeals for sympathy. Stop posting about your son’s poor state. We’ve had enough excuses. We’ve had enough of your damning “20 minutes of action,” when what your son did was the culmination of ideas that told him he could take what wasn’t his and would still be okay. If you, or Brock, cannot own up to the depravity of his actions, then please, for the sake of everyone else, shut up.
I’m so tired of seeing this happen.