Warning: this post will be minimally graphic in regards to discussing rape and sexual assault, but it needs to be shared and talked about.
The one word to describe my feelings in regards to the Stanford Rape and how it has been handled is outrageous….
Outrageous: shockingly bad or excessive;very bold, unusual, and startling.
The verdict sentencing the Stanford rapist to only 6 months in a county jail, which may be shortened to 3 months for good behavior, is shockingly awful compared to the amount of time he should be serving. The perspective the judge took is startling, valuing the rapists mental health more than the survivor of the rapes mental health. Unfortunately, as unusual as this sentencing is to the public eye for what happened, I’m not sure it is that unusual in the grand scheme of how rapes and sexual assaults are handled by the legal system. In my outrage, I am going to be very bold with what I am about to write and share.
I will start with this, to the woman who has survived this rape (I wish I knew your name) and the ridiculous way it has been handled, I applaud your courage and bravery. What you have gone through is something nobody should ever have to experience, but you are strong and you are surviving. What many do not understand, is that the trauma was not just in the rape, but in the hospital after as well. What you had to go through, just to make sure you were going to be okay physically and health-wise, is a traumatic event in itself, and I am so utterly sorry that you had to experience this. I am sorry for how the rape has affected your sense of self and your relationships. I am sorry for the conversations lost with those you love, your inability to eat and sleep, and the loneliness you must have felt or still be feeling. I am sorry for the worry, lack of trust, and confusion you must feel now in regards to men and whether you are safe around them or not. I understand and I am standing with you in support of you, rooting for your recovery and healing. Take your time to heal your heart, those are deep wounds that have been inflicted. I pray you know there is a Man who heals all wounds and who will make sure justice is served for your rapist, even if justice hasn’t been properly served legally. You will survive; you will conquer; and you will overcome this because you are more than simply what has happened to you. We experience defining moments in our lives that dictate our direction and path, but we are not defined by these same moments. Who you are is not defined by the fact that you were raped. Do not believe the lies that you are anything but lovely, strong, pure, and powerful. My heart goes out to you and I will be praying for your heart and your life continuously.
A letter to the rapist’s dad and the rapist (because I really don’t care to recognize you by your name)… Dad, you are an asshole who obviously raised an asshole. Your blatant lack of respect for women, and how you view sexual relationships, shows in your comment, “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action,” referring to the potential prison time of your son. Obviously your disrespect and nonchalant, if not crude, way of viewing sex was passed on to your son. Children learn from the examples set before them, and unfortunately you were not a good example when it came to showing your son that he is to treat women with respect, dignity, and the most pure form of love. Maybe you are actually sad, disappointed, shocked, or even appalled at the heinous act your son committed, but then show the world that. I can’t get myself to believe that you truly aren’t just sick to your stomach when you think of what he did to that innocent young woman. What you have shown is someone who feels no compassion towards women who are victimized by monsters such as your son.
Do you have a daughter? If you do I pray for her that she knows how to recognize true love from someone and doesn’t let men walk all over her and treat her body in the same manner your son treated the woman’s body he raped. In regards to the judge’s sentence and your response, “Brock’s life has been deeply altered forever. He will never be his happy go lucky self. Now he barely consumes any food. His every waking minute is consumed with worry, anxiety, fear and depression.” Followed by your comment about action… Look at it this way, maybe, just maybe, the fact he is so fearful, depressed, lost his appetite, worries and has anxiety just might mean he knows just how awful of a thing he did was. Just maybe, there’s a part of him that is disappointed in the decision he made, or regretful and ashamed of his actions. But these aren’t the things making headlines. Instead, the only thing you have focused on is his mental health and his talent of swimming and not how he has affected the life of the woman he raped.
What about her? She can’t eat. She can’t sleep. She will need a while to heal and recover from what your son did to her. And she will most likely still be recovering long after he gets out of prison due to his ridiculously short sentence. What about the memories, milestones, relationships, and fun she is going to miss out on while she gets acclimated to life again after having her body violated? What about the mistrust and fear she will live with now? What about the simple fact that your son was the one to break down both his own life and hers by the choice he made. He is the only one responsible for what he did that night; the woman he raped did nothing to cause him to suffer how he is now, he did that to himself. I believe that any repercussions that have resulted from his decision to rape this young woman, including those that affect his mental health, are consequences that he fully deserves. You should not be trying to “protect” him from further damage to his mental health by giving him a short prison sentence. He brought these repercussions upon himself because he wanted “action” so badly that he chose to victimize an unconscious woman. And on that note, I would argue his mental health would have already been in question because he chose to violate a woman while she wasn’t even conscious. Only sick men look at a woman who isn’t able to consent and decide that they can do what they want with her body. Only men who aren’t happy or healthy sexually decide that whatever they can get is enough for them, even if this means the woman isn’t contributing to the sexual act. I don’t know what you or your son learned about giving and receiving intimate love, but I would think most people wouldn’t want to have a sexual experience unless the other party was wanting to and emotionally connected to them. The woman your son raped was neither of these things. I pray for you and your son and the rest of your family that at some point reality will hit and your heads will be set straight and you will finally be able to see what you have both done. Because dad, I know parents, and especially father’s, want to protect their children, but you are doing your own son an injustice by not making him pay for his crime with the time he should owe. Instead, you are showing him how to cheat the system and be a scumbag.
I want the world to know, stand up for, and speak out against people getting away with these kinds of crimes. I understand how raping a woman could end up affecting someone who rapes another person mentally, but that isn’t something to use to lessen their sentence because the woman they victimized is surely struggling more than they are. It was her body that was violated; it was her “no” that was ignored; it was the rapist’s body, that only THEY have control over, that they chose to use against a woman. The worst part is, the trauma doesn’t leave you or stop once the initial rape or assault happens. A separate trauma occurs when you get to the hospital. And then the effects of both of those traumas can last for years, if not the rest of your life.
Besides the other struggles I have faced as a result of my own sexual assault, I have also struggled at times because of my experience at the hospital following my sexual assault. For the last three years doctors offices of any sort have made me uneasy and anxious. This is because of the experience I had at a hospital when I went to visit the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner after being encouraged by a friend to do so. I had no idea what was going to happen, but in short this was how my visit went…
After being shown to a room near the ER, I first recounted the events from the night of my sexual assault for my nurse and two advocates that came to be with me from a local non-profit. As I told them all I could remember, I began to truly think about and realize what had happened to me for the first time. Then a university detective came and I had to tell my entire story all over again as well as answer questions for him. I became emotional as I felt the detective prying and prodding into something that was so intimate and personal that had happened to me. At this time I also was asked whether I was wanting to press charges or start an investigation, to which I said no. At this moment, the only thing I cared about was my body and knowing that physically I was okay. I wanted nothing to do with my assaulter.
Once I had finished re-telling what I remembered happening the night of my sexual assault, everyone left but the nurse and one of my best friends that came with me. What followed was a lot of what a normal OB-GYN yearly exam involves, but yet it was so very different. I became emotional, anxious, insecure, and scared the moment I had to undress and lay on that table for my nurse and let her begin her exam. To this day, this is the worst part of any doctor’s appointment for me. More than ever, clothing offered me security and safety; with clothing on, I couldn’t be hurt. I cried as I held my friends hand while she conducted her exam. My legs shook wanting nothing more than for the exam to be over so I could lay them down and close them in hopes that I wouldn’t feel so exposed.
They drew my blood to test for any kind of drug that might have been given to me; this was the general consensus of both my detective and nurse, that due to the blackouts I had described, and the time that lapsed during them and my sexual assault, I had most likely been drugged at some point during the night. I knew I hadn’t drank enough to get as bad as I was that night with my mental awareness. Unfortunately, it had been over 24 hours since my sexual assault so the blood test came back not showing signs of anything in my system. The fact it had been more than 24 hours since my sexual assault also meant that I had showered and changed my clothes, which also meant less evidence to look for that would give proof to my sexual assault if I chose to press charges. I was given a lot of pills and instructed when I needed to take them all. Within six hours of my being at the hospital I had taken almost 14 pills and I felt miserable. These were to combat and prevent any kind of disease that could have been transferred during my assault. I was also given my first ever shot in my right butt cheek, and let me just say they don’t feel any better, if not worse, than a shot anywhere else.
Even after leaving the hospital, my sexual assault followed me as the next day the university detective stopped by the sorority I was living in at the time. He came to take pictures of the texts I had sent to, and received from, my assaulter the night of my sexual assault, and to collect some of my clothing from that night to be kept as evidence. I was instructed that I had two years from that day to decide whether to open an investigation or not. After two years, it would no longer be possible to take any sort of legal action. I still had no intention of opening an investigation or pressing charges; all I wanted was to go about my life as normal as possible, but I still had to have a follow-up exam once home over Thanksgiving to make sure the medications I had been given at the hospital had worked. While home over break I learned that all of my tests came back negative, but then, one at a time, PTSD symptoms like irritability, mood swings, and anxiety followed.
I did not choose to take legal action against the guy who sexually assaulted me. My two years ran up November of 2014. As the time came near for my two year anniversary, I felt the weight and pressure of the looming question, “Last chance, do you want to press charges?” One side of me said no, I don’t want to do something to completely shatter his world like he did mine. Even when I wished he had to suffer just one bit of what I had suffered and gone through, I knew my justice wasn’t in the legal system anymore. This is my justice. Awareness, advocacy, and sharing my story are my justice. The other side of me said no because of my fear of the legal system, and today this makes me sad. I feared bringing my story before a judge because I knew there wasn’t enough concrete evidence from my visit to the hospital to prove I had been raped. It would end up being my word against his, and we know how that normally ends. I didn’t need to hear from a judge and an attorney and whoever else might speak out representing him that what I was claiming happened wasn’t valid, or at least didn’t warrant any punishment on his part. Just sharing what I had gone through in the time since wouldn’t be enough. I was almost positive that taking legal action would only send me deeper into a new realm of hurt, and a new kind of trauma, experiencing a failed trial. I find it is so sad that this is the exact same reason why many women don’t speak up and report what has happened to them. It is a disgrace.
I believe it is important for people to understand that rape and sexual assault are not the only trauma survivors of these things experience. There are lasting effects from the initial act against them, from physical examinations at the doctor’s post sexual assault or rape; how people around them treat them whether that’s coddling them or turning from them; and from the way the survivor processes and feels about what has happened to them internally. Each of these potential scenarios where trauma may occur can impact a person physically, emotionally, and mentally for the rest of their lives. The process of taking care of yourself after being raped or sexually assaulted looks very different from person to person; some people choose to be physically examined by a doctor, others do not, and some end up in the hospital without fully understand what has happened when found by someone else or helped by law enforcement. Some women choose to report their rape or sexual assault and press charges, some women do not. Whether you decide to take legal action or not does not in any way dictate the validity of what has happened to you; nor does whether or not a judge ends up ruling in your favor or not if you choose to take legal action.
If you have taken the time to read this entire post, thank you. I am a firm believer that it is the hard and uncomfortable conversations and topics that need to be discussed the most. Sexual assault and rape are something people don’t normally talk about until something outrageous happens. It’s good when the conversation gets going because of this outrageous story, but it’s a conversation that needs to be ongoing. We cannot create change in this world when we shy away from talking about the hard stuff; when we edit what we are thinking before we say it so that we don’t make someone else uncomfortable. So here’s a cheers to getting and learning to like being uncomfortable because I won’t stop talking about this issue until I see change. I thank each and every one of you who has reached out, shared, and supported my passion by simply reading what I have to say. Please help me break the silence and let’s get talking about the things that really need to be talked about.