Outrage is sweeping the nation following the conclusion of former Stanford student Brock Turner’s campus rape case on Thursday June 2, with Californian judge Persky sentencing Turner to a mere six months of incarceration for 3 counts of sexual assault. Turner was discovered January 18, 2015 lying atop an unconscious 23-year-old student behind a dumpster, whose letter to her rapist is currently making its internet rounds after being posted on Buzzfeed. In it, the woman identified only as Emily Doe describes her trauma as a result of the ordeal, mentioning some questions she was asked while testifying: “What were you wearing? You said you were a party animal? How much did you drink? Are you sexually active with [your boyfriend]?”
The question regarding her clothes at the time of rape is a particularly common one in such cases, which is disturbing because it implies that victims’ choices may be the reason they were attacked. Rape is never the victim’s fault: no matter what a person was wearing at the time of their assault, it’s ridiculous to assume that they were asking for it or that their clothing choices were the cause of her rape. As a matter of fact, many victims of sexual assault were not actually wearing provocative clothing when they were violated; just ask Katherine Cambareri, who did a photo series on clothing victims wore when they were assaulted.
Likewise, a victim’s sexual activity or drinking and partying habits should not play a part in determining whether or not rape accusations were legitimate, as this shames them for their sexuality and is completely irrelevant to their assault. While Emily Doe admitted that having too much to drink was a mistake, it was still not grounds for being sexually violated and should not have been treated as a potential for consent during her trial. A with many of the other questions she was forced to endure during the testimony, these inquiries were unnecessarily personal and invasive, further increasing the trauma she was subjected to both during and following her rape.
We can’t afford to trivialize rape the way the Stanford Rape Case did, because it’s a symptom of a greater problem we are facing that demands to be addressed. Both genders are affected by this perpetuation of rape culture visible in our society today, with men stereotyped with “toxic masculinity” and expected to be violent, dominant sexual beings while women are slut-shamed and sexually objectified. Gender stereotypes should not be as prominent in our justice system as cases like these demonstrate them to be, especially not when they result in sentences that reduce the act of sexual assault to an ordinary occurrence.
Six months was too short a sentence for what Emily Doe endured. While the judge attempted to justify the decision by stating that “prison sentence would have a severe impact on [Turner],” this significantly overlooks his assault’s severe impact on the victim. What makes the situation even worse is that, although Turner was eligible for a full 14 years in prison, his lawyers intend to appeal his conviction. As unbelievable as it sounds, the Stanford rapist may possibly avoid spending a single day in prison.
This article was written by Jade Carraway, a writer for dusk magazine.