Editorial: Action

You’d likely have to be just returning from a deserted island if you have not heard about the Stanford rape case. A Stanford University freshman, Brock Turner, was recently convicted of the intent to commit rape of an intoxicated/unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person and penetration of an unconscious person. He was sentenced to six months in prison.

Read that crime again, and the accompanying sentence again.

A powerful letter his victim wrote about the impact was read in court, and the six-month sentence he received from the judge, a fellow Stanford alumnus, was because of the “impact” a long period of jail time might have on the young, talented swimmer. To further literally add insult  to injury, Mr. Turner’s father appealed to the judge to be lenient on his son because it was too great of a price to pay for “20 minutes of action.”

Since we are in the business of facts, here’s one: Rape is not “action.”

Referring to consensual sex as “action” is at best disrespectful and objectifying. Referring to rape as “20 minutes of action” is nothing short of disgusting.

But we are a distance away and cannot change the events that have occurred. We can’t stop the victim from going out that night. We can’t stop Mr. Turner from taking advantage of her motionless body behind a trash container. We can’t erase the humiliation the victim was subjected to during a court process in which it seemed as though she, instead of Mr. Turner, was on trial. We can’t change the mind or attitude of Mr. Turner’s father, which seems to explain a lot of his son’s behavior. These “actions” are in the past.

What we can control is the future.

Graduation just took place around the area and the country.

It’s a time when we watch our children prepare to leave our watchful eyes and seek their first attempts at independent living. We think of everything we can to tell them, to guide them, to caution them, to warn them. Practical advice abounds about eating well, how to do laundry, and make sure they study and don’t forget to call home.

But now is the time for the harder conversations. With the constant media reporting of sexual assault on college campuses and accompanying statistics, becoming like drumbeats, almost easily ignored white noise, it’s time to take “action,” as Mr. Turner’s father would say. Pluck the uncomfortable truth out of this white noise, and say to your kids, for now, heading off to college, and the rest of their lives:

  • If you go to a party, go with friends you trust and watch out for each other.

  • If you feel intoxicated or without control of your faculties, find those friends and alert them immediately.

  • The only body you have proprietary control over is your own.

  • Do not attempt to have sex with someone who does not want to have sex with you, is incapable of consenting or appears intoxicated.

  • Do not take advantage of another human being’s vulnerability.

  • If you feel you have been the victim of rape, talk to someone — it doesn’t have to immediately be the police. Take action. Call your parents. Tell a counselor.  Don’t hide it. Don’t doubt yourself.

  • Most importantly, the inability to say ‘no’ means the inability to say ‘yes.’

Rape is not “20 minutes of action.” It’s a demeaning, objectifying, horrific, physically-damaging, psychologically-destroying crime that ruins victims’ lives.

You can’t take it back.

But you can try to prevent it — by taking action and having this conversation today.

It shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes.
— Written by Darien Times Editor Susan Schultz.