Allison Howard: Is America The Next Qatar?

BROCK TURNER SCANDAL PUTS RAPE CULTURE UNDER THE MICROSCOPE … || By ALLISON HOWARD || “You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today.” This disturbing and heartbreaking sentence is one many of us have read over and over again over the last couple of…


Allison Howard Best -0490 || By ALLISON HOWARD || “You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today.”

This disturbing and heartbreaking sentence is one many of us have read over and over again over the last couple of weeks as we learned of the sentencing of Brock Turner, a former student at Stanford University, was convicted on three counts of felony sexual assault for sexually molesting a woman at a college party.

In case you’ve been away on a desert island or completely disconnected from media outlets (lucky you!), let me summarize this terrible story …

Brock Turner was a talented swimmer, one many believed could be a contender in the Olympics.  One evening he attended a party and, along with many other college students, proceeded to get highly intoxicated.  Unlike other attendees at the part, however, Turner decided to take advantage of the inebriation of another student by forcing himself on her sexually while she was unconscious. It’s a horrible, but not uncommon event – one that happens across the country on a far too frequent basis.  What made this particular case different than the others, however, was the response by Turner’s judge after his conviction.

Though he was found guilty of three counts of felony sexual assault the judge in the case sentenced Turner to six months in county jail, probation and mandatory registration as a sexual offender.

Six months … or two months’ time for each felony.

Not even a slap on the wrist.

Perhaps the judge, Aaron Persky, wasn’t aware of the message he was sending, but what he loudly and effectively said – not just to Brock Turner but to the entire county – was that this young man’s potential swimming career was more important than the future of the woman he victimized.

In other words while both Turner and his victim made the same mistake – drinking too much at a college party – the victim is more culpable than the aggressor.

This rape culture not only further victimizes already broken women and men – but adds lubricant to an already slippery slope.

Victims of sexual assault or rape (and yes, they are two different things) not only have to suffer through the flashbacks and nightmares that invariably accompany such horrendous experiences, they are then forced to endure a clinical dissection of the events that preceded and followed the event – not to mention the event itself.

They are forced to relive something they don’t want to remember at all – to go over in agonizing detail something they are desperately trying to forget.  Not only that, defense attorneys are allowed to shred the victims’ self-esteem, poking and prodding at their actions and inactions to find the one place of weakness that could conceivably justify the actions of the accused.

Perhaps it was what she wore or the way she was dancing.  Maybe she just needed to learn the lesson that she shouldn’t drink so much.  Maybe, as in this case, both parties had too much to drink or there were drugs involved.

Our current culture shifts the blame sexual assault from the accused to the victim and from this place, it is only a small step to put the victim in jail for the “offense” of being victimized.

Think this doesn’t happen?

In Qatar just two days ago a Dutch woman was drugged and raped – and then was arrested for having sex outside of marriage when the rape was reported.

It is true America’s religious culture is not that of Quatar, Abu Dhabi or Dubai – but our ever-growing persecution of the victims of sexual assault could very well lead to the same end result.  Just look at the outrage that has arisen over the last few years as allegations of sexual assault and misconduct were leveled against beloved sports and entertainment figures.  Our focus on celebrity is eating away at the rights of the “regular person” – putting them at risk to be persecuted – perhaps even prosecuted – for daring to come forward after being victimized.

We must find a way to put the health and welfare of the victims of sexual assault and rape in the forefront of the discussion rather than the background.  We must remember that the pain that is caused by these actions is not temporary but permanently alters the way an individuals deal with sex, intimacy and trust for the rest of their lives.  And we must instill in our mindset that being an athlete or a celebrity does not remove societal rules and norms from the table.

I personally cannot applaud Brock Turner’s victim enough for having the courage to speak about her pain and anguish for the past two years – and for fighting her way to a court to gain justice.  I can only hope the fire she began will continue burning – consuming the rape culture that has been infecting this country (and others) for generations.

If this culture isn’t done away with, then our law enforcement entities had better make room in the jails – obviously not for the rapists (judge Persky has made that much clear), but for the men and women who dare to fall victim to them.

Allison Howard is a freelance writer born and raised in Colorado (where she thought she didn’t fit in).  She diverted to South Carolina (where she definitely didn’t fit in) and recently returned home to Colorado to write about it all – finding she fits in wherever she wants to.


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