My daughter learned very early that her mama watches the news in the same way she watches sports. It's interactive and there's a lot of yelling. Since I'm a Cubs fan and a feminist, crying is also usually involved.
This week, I sat at my dining room table and read the most heart-wrenching and powerful letter ever. The statement from the Stanford rape survivor is something that should be read by as many people as possible. I hesitate to say all because I know people who have lived that letter. Who have prosecuted rapists and seen what is described in that letter. Yes, some of us have a pass from this homework.
For me, as a mom to an almost-teenage girl, I needed to read that letter. As a feminist activist, I had to read that letter. As a human being, I cried. And I cry as I write this recalling her words.
“Sometimes I think, if I hadn’t gone, then this never would’ve happened. But then I realized, it would have happened, just to somebody else.”
So much of the parenting-a-daughter handbook is filled with things to tell her to not do. Do not go out at night on your own. Do not ride the train by yourself. Do not get so drunk that you pass out. Do not leave your drink unattended. Do not. Do not. Do not.
What we need to do is rip those pages out of the daughter handbook and put them in the son handbook.
Do not go out at night on your own and assault someone.
Do not ride the train and corner the woman riding solo.
Do not target the woman who has had too much to drink and rape her.
Do not put anything in a woman’s drink.
Do not. Do not. Do not.
I am angry. I am angry because a woman made a mistake of drinking too much one night and was raped. The consequence for drinking too much should had been a terrible hangover. Instead Brock Turner saw her, vulnerable, and raped her. His father plead for leniency at his sentencing and called his mistake “20 minutes of action.”
Judge Adam Persky agreed that Brock Turner had been victimized and punished. He lost his prestigious swimming scholarship and his opportunity to swim at the Olympics. Brock Turner's father cited his son's loss of appetite for snacks and steaks. Surely that is his penance for his mistake, correct?
Except that Brock Turner raped another human being.
Rape is a crime that is so intimate that it is almost unspeakable. It is the one crime where society immediately questions the victim. What was she wearing? Why was she drinking so much? Didn’t she like to have a lot of sex?
Where men of lesser means and darker skin tone have been convicted and sent to prison for years, Brock Turner was sent to a local jail and told to think about what he had done for a few months. The privilege that Brock Turner swims is in as natural as any pool he has dived into.
As I continue to raise my daughter to go out into the world on her own, I will have to acknowledge that even when you're raped—and sometimes even after a jury says he is guilty as hell—he will still not be held fully accountable.
Judge Persky was also an athlete at Stanford. Perhaps he saw a bit of himself in that rascally young man standing in front of him. Perhaps he envisioned Brock Turner shaking off that one night of violence to become an upstanding citizen despite having to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Only Judge Persky knows why he valued Brock Turner over the woman he raped.
What I do know is that as I continue to raise my daughter to go out into the world on her own, I will have to acknowledge that even when you are raped and two eyewitnesses catch him and pin him down until the police arrive... Even when your rapist says to the police that he never really talked to you. Even when you endure hours of evidence collection for your rape kit. Even after having to retell the tale of your rape over and over again in court. Even after a jury says he is guilty as hell, he will still not be held fully accountable.
That the world we live in may tell women to lean in and to smash through all the glass ceilings, will still try to protect a rapist by only releasing his picture perfect yearbook photo. That journalists will have to demand over and over to release his actual mug shot complete with bloodshot eyes and disheveled hair.
I have already had the talk with my daughter that we stand behind our girlfriends. We do not let people call her a slut. This of course is my prep work for when I have to tell her that a girl in her class may one day stand up to the world and defend a convicted rapist because he was nice to her. I will teach her that not only men are guilty of misogyny.
Much of this was already in my annotated daughter handbook. What Brock Turner, his father and Judge Persky do is make me tell you about it.