As I write this I am still shaking. It's been a couple of days since I first read Brock Turner's victim's letter to the court and her rapist. It's been a couple of days since I found out that her rapist, who was literally caught in the act of raping the unconscious victim, chased, and apprehended by two heroes, was given six months in prison for his crime.
Like most victims of rape, we've been waiting for this verdict. We've been waiting for justice. Not just for Brock Turner's victim, but for all of us, who have gone without justice ourselves. We thought surely this was the case.
He. Was. Caught. Raping. Her. For. Christ's sake. DUH. I mean really. DUH.
And it wasn't enough. Nope. It wasn't good enough to be seen raping a girl by two witnesses. The rape kit's evidence--the dirt and his DNA in her body--was not enough.
Nope. Not enough.
I can't imagine what she's going through right now. I didn't have her courage 18 years ago. I didn't have the wherewithal or strength to stand up and face my rapist. I cowered in front of the D.A. who asked me, "Are you ready to put a man behind bars who has the rest of his life in front of him?" I was twenty-two. I didn't think I was going to have a rest of my life. I planned on leaving his office that day and killing myself. I felt disgusting. Sick. Worthless. Ashamed. I didn't know how to respond to him. I sat with my head down and shook my head and said, "No. I don't know. I don't think so." He wanted me to "think long and hard" about what my statements would do to this "young man's future."
He didn't ask me about my future.
He asked me what I was wearing. (For the record: jeans, hiking boot, a yellow daisy-printed shirt--with a collar).
He asked me why I agreed to go to dinner with a man I barely knew.
"I thought he was cute. I thought he was nice...but he wasn't."
Then he asked why I was drinking. Then he asked me why didn't fight harder. Why there weren't more bruises? (For the record. I had a massive bruise on my back. I had internal injuries. Kidney damage. Septic shock.) He couldn't see any of that during my twenty-minute stay in his office.
I went home and showered. I went back to classes. I graduated from school. I had a baby.
But, I never forgot. I never will.
His face comes to me in nightmares. I can't get him off of me. I cry out and try to scream and I don't think anyone can hear me. Just like the night he raped me. I scream and I scream.
No one can help me.
My husband shakes me awake on the nights these dreams come. "You're home. You're safe. Go back to sleep."
I roll over, but I can't sleep.
Sometimes when I am driving the song "Santoria" comes on I am transported once again to that dark room. I hear the song that my rapist was blasting so no one could hear my screams. "Daddy's got a new Forty-Five...and I won't think twice to stick that barrels straight down Sancho's throat."
I shake my head. I turn off the radio. I try to regroup. I try to forget. But, I know I will never forget. I will wonder who he did it to again. I will wonder, forever wonder, why me? What did I do? What could I have done differently? But, the answer, I know is simply nothing. He was the one who had to change. He was the one who didn't have to rape me.
I am sad for our world today. I am sad because I know what it costs to be a woman. I know what it is like not to be believed, to be discounted, to be objectified, and vilified. I know that no matter how far we’ve come, we have so much farther to go. So much. As long as women are being blamed for being the victim, and punished for speaking out, there will never be justice.
I am worried too. I am worried for my daughter. For all the daughters, sisters, mothers, friends. Don’t for one second think: “Not mine. Not my daughter. Not my child.” Because, let me assure you, it can be. As long as there are rapists, your child can be raped.
You can’t prevent it. You can’t wear the right outfit. Drink the right amount of wine. Walk on the right side of town.
The only way to prevent a rape, is to stop rapists. And if they’re on the streets, if they’re given the tacit permission that It’s no big, deal. That it’s Ok. It’s going to keep happening.
While I am sad, worried, sick, and tired, I also have hope. There is a light—a beacon—to use the Stanford Rape Survivor's own eloquent words--that exists today for all of us victims. And I’d like to thank her—profoundly from the deepest part of my soul—for what she so beautifully put into words on behalf of all of us survivors—from the newborn to the aged—(Yes, rape can happen at any age, too—and you’re a survivor no matter what age).
Yes, the Stanford Rape Survivor is the one of the most courageous, brave, and amazing young women in our world today. She said to the judge, the broken judicial system, and her rapist, what I didn’t have the courage to say 18 years ago and I am immensely grateful. And more than anything I am grateful for this. So incredibly grateful for these beautiful words:
And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought every day for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. As the author Anne Lamott once wrote, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you.
No, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You are my hero.