Decades Upon Decades of Inaction
Normally the premise of my blog is to see the humor and find that silver lining in situations, but sometimes it’s not possible to right the wrongs and explain the unfairness life brings. But maybe there’s a way to talk through it and find meaning, however, twisted that meaning is.
A big story in this week’s news was also a big topic in our home. I’m talking about the Stanford athlete, Brock Turner, who received an unheard of lenient sentence for viciously raping an unconscious young woman behind a dumpster. My daughter is a 21 year-old recent college graduate who is returning to campus this fall to get her masters. With tears in her eyes she spoke to me about reading the victim’s impact statement. My daughter said she cried while reading the letter and learning the effects the victim, who is remaining anonymous, will have for the rest of her life, while the convicted felon will only serve 90 days, if that.
So I watched this video of the other’s, some famous, most not, some men, most not, reading the victim’s impact statement and encourage you to watch it, too. And as shocking as this incident is, unfortunately it’s hardly isolated. The documentary, The Hunting Ground is about the “rape crimes on U.S. college campuses, their institutional cover-ups, and the devastating toll they take on students and their families.”
The documentary shows that colleges and universities have a financial incentive to not encourage victims to report these assaults and discourage the women (and men) from contacting police. Did you know that 16% of college women are sexually assaulted across the nation and yet, 88% of women don’t ever report the assault?
When the women do report it to the college they are often blamed, shamed, and lectured on their part of the assault. What they wore or how much alcohol they consumed. Schools don’t want these assault numbers to effect their enrollment, and this makes them complicit in the assault. Many of the women interviewed described the rape as being awful, but how the school administration treated them afterwards was worse. These girls did everything they were supposed to do. Alert authorities quickly. Make a statement. Get a rape kit. But in many cases nothing was done.
The story of Erica Kinsman who was allegedly (I have to say that) raped by Jameis Winston while at Florida State University is especially disgusting and haunting. Though Kinsman reported the rape within hours, nothing was ever done by the Tallahassee Police Department. Winston was never interviewed, investigated or charged even though TPD had Winston’s DNA.
There’s an interesting tie-in between the Stanford and Florida State cases. The judge who gave the light sentence in the Stanford case and the investigating officer for the Tallahassee PD who did not immediately investiage, were both alumni to these respective schools.
To me this documentary was as explosive as Making a Murderer but unlike that documentary which took the nation by storm, The Hunting Ground didn’t gain that kind of momentum. Why not? It won plenty of awards. Perhaps one of the reasons might be the level of discomfort. When you watch Making a Murderer you can say to yourself, this will most likely never happen to me. And when you watch The Hunting Ground and you are a young woman about to go to college or have a daughter you are sending away to college, you cannot say this. You want to, but you can’t. Something these two films also have in common is the complaint of a one-sided view.
Back to my daughter. After talking and venting for a while, her anguish and anger subsided. I think I’ve done a good job listening without interjecting facts or opinions or “that’ll never happen to you, sweetie,” because I know it can happen to anyone. I need to ask her the tough question, though the words won’t come out of my mouth. Finally, with a tremor in my voice, I force myself to say, “If something like this ever happened to you, you’d tell us, right?”
After a few seconds my daughter says, “Yes, mom, I’d tell you. And this has never happened to me.”
The breath I’d been holding comes out in a whoosh. But I want to do more. How do I protect my daughter? How do we protect all daughters? These colleges are only looking to protect themselves and their future endowments, so how do we hold them accountable no matter how famous their “athlete” is? These entitled men should not be valued more than female students, and yet they are.
So I have no joke, not even about Brock receiving his own special “20 minutes of action” as his father so callously wrote in a letter to the judge, largely because he is being kept isolated in prison. Just have that tough conversation with your daughter, your sister, your friend. And to the real victim, I so admire how you’ve gone from victim to survivor to advocate. Thank you from a mom of a daughter.