Taking Her Story Back.
In the early hours of Sunday, January the 18th in 2005, two grad students at Stanford University were biking across campus when they saw a freshman student on top of a half-naked female behind a dumpster. Instinctually, they tackled him to the ground until police arrived.
Thus began more than a year of hearings and trials that have ultimately captured the nation’s attention and fueled its fury following the recent ruling. California judge Aaron Persky presided over the case of former Stanford student Brock Turner, 20. He was sentenced to a mere six months in prison, followed by three years of probation, even though he was found guilty of three felony counts of sexual assault.
Throughout the entire case, we only heard the side of the attacker, Brock Turner, instead of his unnamed 23-year-old victim, as she was unconscious throughout the life-altering ordeal. Brock took her dignity, or at least tried. Then he took her voice away. Took her story away: until now.
The young woman addressed her attacker in an impassioned speech at the end of the trial, and then shared a letter with Buzzfeed News that has since been read by millions of people. Her words show resiliency, strength, love, and vulnerability. They speak directly to Turner, confiding in him of all the emotions she went through in the months following that morning she woke up in the hospital, completely unaware that she had been digitally raped the night before. In her speech, the survivor informs Brock about all of the times he went wrong both the night of the attack and during the trial.
Sadly, the assailant, his friends, and family still don’t understand.
I would like to address the defendant.
The statement begins powerfully: “You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today.”
The survivor carefully details the morning after, her first realization that she had been assaulted, that something was wrong, that a piece of her was gone and she would never get it back. “When I was finally allowed to use the restroom, I pulled down the hospital pants they had given me, went to pull down my underwear, and felt nothing. I still remember the feeling of my hands touching my skin and grabbing nothing. I looked down and there was nothing. The thin piece of fabric, the only thing between my vagina and anything else, was missing and everything inside me was silenced. I still don’t have words for that feeling [….]
“After a few hours of this, they let me shower. I stood there examining my body beneath the stream of water and decided, I don’t want my body anymore. I was terrified of it, I didn’t know what had been in it, if it had been contaminated, who had touched it. I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else.
“On that morning, all that I was told was that I had been found behind a dumpster, potentially penetrated by a stranger, and that I should get retested for HIV because results don’t always show up immediately. But for now, I should go home and get back to my normal life. Imagine stepping back into the world with only that information. They gave me huge hugs and I walked out of the hospital into the parking lot wearing the new sweatshirt and sweatpants they provided me, as they had only allowed me to keep my necklace and shoes.”
The statement, which you can read in full at the end of this article, goes on powerfully, poetically, and traumatically for quite a length, and includes every sickening detail, every twisted emotion, and every shattered dream that is now and forever her reality.
“I was not only told that I was assaulted, I was told that because I couldn’t remember, I technically could not prove it was unwanted. And that distorted me, damaged me, almost broke me. It is the saddest type of confusion to be told I was assaulted and nearly raped, blatantly out in the open, but we don’t know if it counts as assault yet. I had to fight for an entire year to make it clear that there was something wrong with this situation.”
After sharing her words with BuzzFeed News, the survivor’s letter was read over five million times in just a matter of hours and continues to go viral today. The reaction across the nation has been one of disgust, one of pity, and one of anger, especially after the public learned that Brock, who digitally raped her behind a dumpster, would be serving only six months in a county jail for his crimes. In fact, since the media began covering the story over a year ago, it was Brock himself who was victimized. Unlike your average rapist, his mugshot wasn’t even released until today, and instead his yearbook picture was prominently featured in the news. His accolades trumped his unforgivable acts. Brock the swimmer. Brock the Ivy League student. Brock the Olympic hopeful. Brock the chef.
In reality, he is Brock the felon. And yet even after a jury unanimously found him guilty of three counts of sexual assault, people are still coming to Brock’s defense, trying to belittle his crimes and blame the girl he attacked instead.
One Twitter user summed it up perfectly: “So: a drunk woman gets raped, it’s her fault for drinking; a drunk guy rapes, he’s not responsible b/c he drank. #rapeculture”