Congress Will Read Stanford Rape Victim's Letter Out Loud
Jun 10, 2016
Members of Congress will be reading from the Stanford rape victim's powerful letter to her attacker on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives next week.
According to recent reports California Representative Jackie Speier will sponsor a special order that will enable members to read from the statement over the course of an hour. This comes after Speier entered the victim's letter into Congressional record by reading it on the House floor Thursday.
Early last year, two Stanford graduate students spotted a freshman swimmer sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster on campus. The young man attempted to run away, but the two students chased him down, tackled him, and called the police. The freshman named Brock Allen Turner dropped out of school and was charged with five felony counts.
Last week, a jury of eight men and four women found the 20-year-old guilty of three felony charges including assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman and sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object. For his crime, he faced more than 10 years of prison time. But at the sentencing on Thursday, judge Aaron Persky decided to sentence Turner to six months in a county jail plus three years of probation because, "a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him," he said. "I think he will not be a danger to others."
In response to the outrage over Turner's light sentence, his victim released the emotional speech she read in court. The victim detailed her horror of finding out the details of her assault in the news: "I read and learned for the first time about how I was found unconscious, with my hair disheveled, long necklace wrapped around my neck, bra pulled out of my dress, dress pulled off over my shoulders and pulled up above my waist, that I was butt naked all the way down to my boots, legs spread apart, and had been penetrated by a foreign object by someone I did not recognize." She also expressed the pain she felt when she learned that because she was unconscious when she was attacked, her testimony would be considered unreliable. "I was told that because I couldn’t remember, I technically could not prove it was unwanted." The heartbreaking statement has now been read over 5 million times since its release.
In addition to the victim's viral statement, a Stanford law professor, who has helped toughen the school's sexual assault policies, tweeted out a letter that Turner's father, Dan A. Turner, sent to the judge before his son's sentencing. In his tone-deaf appeal, Dan A. Turner says his son has stopped eating his favorite food (rib eye steaks) and that his life will now never be the same. "That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life," he wrote. He then compared his son's assault to college hookup culture, writing: "Brock can do so many positive things as a contributor to society and is totally committed to educating other college age students about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity."
Dan Turner's choice of words and Brock's light sentencing both send the message that a sexual assault crime, even one that was witnessed by two other people, isn't considered a serious offense. As of last year, 1 in 10 female students attending college admitted to experiencing some form of sexual assault, and only 12.5 percent of surveyed rapes were reported, mainly because victims felt nothing would come of it. And in a recent study in the Violence Against Women journal, which surveyed 379 male undergraduates at a large public Division I university in the Southeast, more than half of the students who played a intramural or intercollegiate sport admitted to coercing a partner into sex. In her statement, Turner's victim begged the jury and her peers to finally address the severity of the rape culture epidemic that has taken over on college campuses. "The seriousness of rape has to be communicated clearly, we should not create a culture that suggests we learn that rape is wrong through trial and error," she wrote. "The consequences of sexual assault needs to be severe enough that people feel enough fear to exercise good judgment even if they are drunk, severe enough to be preventative."
More From Vogue:
• "The Hunting Ground" Chronicles the Epidemic Nature of Campus Rape
• Why Don't We Believe Women Who Say They Have Been Raped?
• Campus Sexual Assault: Annie E. Clark and Andrea Pino Are Fighting Back
• New York Passes Yes Means Yes Policy to Fight Campus Sexual Assault
Photo Credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call