Brock Turner is a free man again. Released from jail after three measly months. I say measly because it really was when you consider the seriousness of his crime. I would call him a rapist but technically that would be wrong, under Californian law he is not a rapist. According to the law he sexually assaulted his victim. He violated her behind the bins; he penetrated the unconscious woman with an unknown object, but he did not have intercourse with her. Therefore, it can't be classed as rape. In the words of Brock's victim
"You don't know me, but you've been inside me, and that's why we're here today."
After three months he has been released. He can now get back to enjoying those rib-eye steaks that he was so fond of. In the meantime his victim will never be free. She will never forget what Brock Turner did to her. Another thing she won't be allowed to forget is that Brock was a swimmer with a promising future. Just as she will always be labelled the victim, Brock will always be defined by his social standing, "former Stanford swimmer." Nearly every report I have read of this case has started with the words - " former Stanford University swimmer". In one news report we were reminded throughout the article of Brock's talent:
" the one time Stanford swimming star"
"the former Olympic hopeful"
The media seems shocked that athletes might rape or sexually violate people behind dumpsters. Yes, Brock can swim but that doesn't make him less likely to be a rapist. Sadly, we often never know who is capable of rape until it happens. Rapists don't walk around with rapist tattooed on their forehead: there is no one defining feature of a rapist. They could be the helpful man you chat to at the gym, your friendly neighbour or maybe even your hardworking Dr. You never know.
A rapist looks like everyone else. A rapist may have a position of authority, they might be an athlete, it could even be your boyfriend.
Approximately 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence.
I am not suggesting that we go around thinking that every man has the potential to rape. However, I am suggesting that the media changes the way it chooses to report rape. It needs to stop humanising the rapists, telling us what lovely law-abiding people they were previously. It needs to stop telling us how talented and hardworking they are. I don't care if they once helped an old granny across the road, to me they are now rapists. The word rapist tells me everything I need to know about them. When they choose to rape they lose their right to be considered as an individual.
The way the media has chosen to report the Brock Turner case is disturbing. The persistent focus on the fact he was once a talented swimmer and the almost mourning over the fact that he no longer has a bright future. Yes, he no longer has a bright future, so what? It was his decision to do what he did that night. On the other hand his victim didn't ask to be sexually assaulted. In the reporting of domestic and sexual violence the women are often silenced. However, this time the female refused to be silenced. Her eloquent and powerful 7,000 word letter ensured that everyone listened to her. We now know that the survivor is an incredibly brave and intelligent woman.
"For a while, I believed that that was all I was. I had to force myself to relearn my real name, my identity. To relearn that this is not all that I am. That I am not just a drunk victim at a frat party found behind a dumpster, while you are the All American swimmer at a top university, innocent until proven guilty, with so much at stake. I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt, my life was put on hold for over a year, waiting to figure out if I was worth something."
A lot of women are affected by rape. A lot of women will be carrying around the secret of rape. Women that are sisters, daughters and mothers. Women that are teachers, cashiers and office workers. Anyone can become a victim of rape. To be raped you don't need to be drunk or wearing provocative clothing. The victims of rape weren't asking for it: they were not the ones at fault.
A third of people believe women who flirt are partially responsible for being raped (Amnesty, 2005)
The media needs to stop normalising rape and pushing blame onto the victim. Secret survivors of rape are everywhere. This burden will always be with them. We need to make it easier for survivors of rape to talk about what has happened; we need to make it easier for survivors to come forward. The media needs to stop with its crude reporting of rape.
Approximately 85,000 of woman are raped every year in the UK
Only around 15% of those who experience sexual violence choose to report it to the police
It takes strength to talk about rape. I want to see the media empowering women to report these crimes. Rape Crisis London has launched #breakthesilence, a series of films for young survivors
We need to be supporting survivors of rape. We need to break the silence.
This post first appeared on Island Living 365