Brock Turner is in the news again. He is attempting to have his conviction overturned. For those of you have forgotten (and in this age of 24 hour news, that is understandable), Turner was a student at Stanford with an extensive history of substance abuse, when he was found guilty of assault with intent to rape an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object. For this, the judge (a former Stanford student) sentenced Turner to 6 months in prison stating a longer sentence would have “a severe impact on him”. Turner’s father, in a letter to the court, said “[The sentence] is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.” His attorney, in trying to have the sentence overturned, argues that Turner was trying to have “‘outercourse’… an activity that does not involve vaginal sex and as a ‘version of safe sex.'”
*Takes a deep breath and steadies myself*
*Takes another breath*
A lot of people are saying that this story is about drinking culture. No, it’s about sexual assault culture. There is a discussion that needs to be had about excessive alcohol consumption and hook up culture. This story is the not the vehicle by which we should be having that conversation.
Simple and clear language is the best way to talk about this. Brock Turner forced himself on a woman and was found guilty. Whatever sleights of hand his attorney presents, this basic fact cannot be ignored. It was non-consensual. The attempt to present the woman as promiscuous because she was intoxicated and because of that, somehow deserving, is offensive. As regular readers know, I drank too much after England were knocked out of the World Cup. The people that were around me had also been drinking. They did not stick anything in me or attempt to have “some action” with me. They didn’t drag me behind a dumpster. They didn’t have to be restrained by passers by. I don’t think I would have deserved that.
This is not a conversation about excessive alcohol consumption and hook up culture.
Henry Cavill faced backlash when he said about dating:
“It’s very difficult to do that if there are certain rules in place. Because then it’s like: ‘Well, I don’t want to go up and talk to her, because I’m going to be called a rapist or something,”
To be clear, he was talking about “traditional” courtship. I have not spoken to the woman that Turner assaulted, but I am confident enough to go out on a limb and say that if he had gone up and talked to her, she would not have called him a rapist. Pretty sure it was his intent to rape that would make her call him a rapist.
Again, this isn’t a story about excessive alcohol consumption and hook up culture.
His father’s comment is revealing. The idea that sexual assault is somehow reduced to “action” must be discussed. Even though it is unbelievably difficult, it is education, not rejection, that is required. The comment is symptomatic of a society that is completely divorced from the reality of rape and sexual assault. I present these statistics without comment in the first instance.
- 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime
- About 3% of American men—or 1 in 33—have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime
- From 2009-2013, Child Protective Services agencies substantiated, or found strong evidence to indicate that, 63,000 children a year were victims of sexual abuse
- A majority of child victims are 12-17. Of victims under the age of 18: 34% of victims of sexual assault and rape are under age 12, and 66% of victims of sexual assault and rape are age 12-17
- 9 out of every 10 victims of rape in the US are female
(all statistics taken from https://www.rainn.org/statistics/scope-problem)
I would also offer that numerous studies have concluded that rape is underreported by victims and undercounted by police departments and so these numbers are likely to be significantly lower than the real number. After the numbers, I would give the Department of Justice definition of rape which reads:
“Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
When you combine the statistics with the definition, it becomes clear that Cavill and those that empathise with his comments have nothing to fear. Talking to a woman isn’t rape. Offering to buy them a drink at a bar isn’t rape. But, and this part is key, raping them IS rape. It’s not “action”, she wasn’t “up for it”, you don’t get leniency because you were drunk, you don’t get to say “she didn’t say no, so I took that for yes” (I think Spain’s new law is interesting and worthy of further exploration), and you don’t get to be painted as the victim. I don’t care if you were going to be a swimmer, a scientist or a superhero – if you rape you deserve to face justice.
Lastly, the defence of “outercourse” would be funny if the subject matter wasn’t so serious. Turner’s lawyer describing it as a version of safe sex incriminates his client – because sex by definition requires consent. Which he didn’t have. The gall to ask for an overturning when he only served 3 months…I feel like I’m in a Munch painting. You don’t get to “grab em by the pussy” and get away wit…