The nation has turned on Brock Turner and the judge who broke precedent to give him a disgustingly light sentence, as well they should. The victim bravely made her voice heard and her bravery has already done much to advance the discussion of rape in our country. I have seen so many male bloggers/columnists talking about how, at an appropriate age, they’ll be reading the victim’s letter to their sons to help them understand the devastation sexual assault has on the victim. Brock Turner, his father, and his lawyers are all trying to blame the whole situation on alcohol, as though Brock had no control over what happened that night. His lawyers were also attempting to underhandedly assassinate the victim’s character as though she was somehow responsible for what happened to her.
Most of the thought pieces in response to this even I’ve seen are encouraging parents to address sexual assault and consent with their sons. This makes so much sense and should absolutely be a part of sex education. I’ll say it again sexual assault and consent should absolutely be a part of sex education. Brock Turner’s father’s response to his conviction and sentencing made it painfully clear to everyone how his son could drag a drunk woman behind a dumpster, violate her, get caught, and then only think about the damage done to his own life and future. It was so obvious that his father could never even imagine the kind of damage sexual assault does to a person. And so, as we’re all thinking, “How do we prevent this?!” we are right to say, educate our children on the rights and wrongs of consent. But, the reality is that this protects the next generation of women. Educating the current generation of young men doesn’t protect the thousands of women who will be sexually assaulted now, this month, this year.
I hear the people who are saying that women shouldn’t have to worry about going to a party and getting raped, shouldn’t have to worry about going to lunch with a coworker and being drugged, shouldn’t have to worry… And I understand what they are saying. What they are saying is that we shouldn’t accept this as status quo. We shouldn’t just accept that this is going to happen and not do everything in our power to prevent sexual assault. But, the truth is, we do have to worry AND we shouldn’t accept the status quo. Personally, nearly every woman I’ve been close enough to that we share secrets has been sexually violated or had someone attempt to sexually assault them. I truly believe that the women who go through life and haven’t experienced at least a rape attempt are rare. We cannot and should not accept this!
We also have to prepare ourselves and our daughters for what happens when someone, man or woman, attempts to take from us what we do not want to give. A rape prevention program in Canada recently made the news as one of the first successful tactics in lowering campus sexual assault incidences. Yes, it does require women to educate themselves and practice how they would handle inappropriate or violent sexual advances. Yes, this does put some of the ownership for a woman’s safety in her own hands. Yes, it requires women to recognize and avoid unsafe situations or take precautions. NO, lack of this education or training should NOT be a reason to try and blame a woman for being a victim of sexual assault. YES, the fault of a rape still is and always will be the rapist’s!
We have to approach this both ways or we fail the current and future victims. We must educate the next generation about consent and we must help women protect themselves now, today. These strategies are not mutually exclusive and really have the greatest promise of reducing sexual assault numbers when practiced together.