I’ll never forget those words out of my daughter when she was young.
I don’t remember the conversation we were having, but it had something to do with protecting oneself against some sort of evil. Might have been stranger danger, might have been something else. I don’t know.
All I know is that I will never forget her reaction: her small, questioning voice and her confusion as we stripped away a small layer of her innocence, never to be replaced. She was now aware that no, not everyone in the world is nice.
We are raising girls here at our house. We are raising women. We are working hard to make them savvy, to make them strong, to keep them safe, to make sure they know they are loved and respected, to make them loving and respectful to others, to keep them honest.
Not necessarily in that order, and I’m sure I may have missed a few thousand things on my forever-long list of things we must do when raising them.
It’s exhausting. Some days are so hard. Some days I look at the world they’re in and I just don’t even know how we can do it any more. I look at what we’re up against and I am exhausted. I feel as if we’re swimming upstream, against the tide.
This week was one of those weeks.
I’m sure that by now, you’ve all read about the newly convicted rapist Brock Turner, a former Standford University young man who had been drinking alcohol, and then brutally raped a young, unconscious woman who had also been drinking alcohol, behind a dumpster until he was caught by two individuals who just happened to be passing by. He tried to run from his crime, the unconscious woman left behind in an instant, victimized, brutalized and still unknowing; but thankfully he was caught by those who had seen him, two heroes.
He was convicted on three felony charges of sexual abuse and thanks to Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky’s ruling, Brock Turner will serve just six months in jail for his crime, even less if he behaves well while in jail. He will be put on probation and must register as a sex offender. The maximum time allowed by law was 14 years.
Six months. Approximately 180 days in county jail for him, or maybe just 90 days if he’s a good boy, while he was able to deliver a life’s sentence to a woman he didn’t even know.
That young woman could’ve been my daughter.
Any one of them.
That young woman shared a more than 7,000 word statement with her attacker in court at the time of his conviction about how his brutal attack had affected her life in the days since. Clearly, she can’t put into words yet how it will affect her life forever, because she has no idea.
I have no idea.
But I can imagine, although, I don’t want to.
The life sentence Brock Turner has bestowed upon his rape victim is approximately 25,550 days long, if she lives for 70 more years.
In her statement which I couldn’t even read in its entirety at first, there is one part that I can’t get out of my head. Well, truthfully, there are about 7,200 parts that I can’t get out of my head. But this one part, the part where she realizes that the details of the attack were made public in a news story (the story she read which gave her the intimate details she previously hadn’t known about her own attack) and that she had to tell her parents. She wrote about sitting them down, about having to tell them that she had been attacked and raped, and not to read the news stories, that they were awful. Trying to stand up, her parents having to hold her when she could no longer stand as she recounted her experience as she now knew it.
That, next to actually being attacked myself, is the stuff my nightmares are made of. Hearing those words come out of my child’s mouth, I can’t even imagine the anguish that family has had to go through. As a parent, you try so hard to protect your children, to teach them to protect themselves, to make good choices, to stay safe, to treat others kindly, to do unto others as they’d like done unto them.
To hear that your child has been attacked, brutalized, victimized, left for dead in a rape-and-run crime, violated, forever changed, wounded and damaged. That might be some of the hardest, most devastating news to receive as a parent, in my personal opinion.
I can’t get it out of my head.
But the story, like any story, has even more ugly twists and turns.
There’s the actual crime itself, which alone is violent and sickening. There is the male judge’s lenient sentence for a brutal rapist, and his statement in court that he feared for the impact on this young man’s life if he had issued a stronger sentence. He didn’t mention fearing for the impact this crime would have on Brock Turner’s female victim. There is the news report about the crime that included the fact that the boy was a champion swimmer, once having had Olympic dreams, now dashed. It didn’t seem to mention the dreams of the rape victim in the report. There is the picture of Brock Turner that was first shared all over the internet, a pretty, blond athletic-looking boy in a nice navy blue suit with a button up shirt and tie.
Where was the mug shot we’d normally see plastered all over the internet?
And then, the icing on the cake: Brock Turner’s dad, Dan Turner, and his written statement of how this crime that his son committed, his non-violent “20 minutes of action” over 20 years time, has affected his son’s days, his son’s appetite and prior love for a good steak, his zest for life, and all of this in his opinion, is just so unnecessarily so.
He hardly did anything at all, apparently.
That’s when I feel like slumping down the wall that’s holding me up on our uphill climb, raising girls in today’s world.
This is what we’re up against, this is what our girls are up against. This is when I feel like we haven’t come very far as a society at all in our fight for women and their rights. We’re up against a world where men brutally attack and rape unconscious women, leave them for dead, get a light punishment, and have people feeling badly that their appetite has diminished in the days since devastatingly attacking a woman and, in essence, her family, setting them off into a nightmare for the rest of their lives.
Sometimes I feel like our society is so broken, so beyond repair, especially when I see stories like this. I fear for my daughters and their lives all over again, no matter which daughter, no matter how old. I fear for a day when one of them sits me down and delivers this news.
Now I know you can’t live in fear. I know that you can’t slump down the wall and stay there, and you have to keep on keeping on. But some weeks it’s just harder than others.
Last summer some of my girls and I took a walk one night, something we all do all the time when the weather is nice. As we walked, we came across a car parked in front of a home in the neighborhood. The car had out-of-state plates from a nearby state, and the driver was sleeping in the front seat with the windows open. We thought it odd, but the house seemed dark and we assumed when we walked by that the driver had arrived early from out of state, no one was home at the home she was visiting, and she fell asleep waiting for them to return. It was only early evening, still daylight.
On our way back from our walk, we noticed the young woman was still there. Still sleeping. The house was still dark. I peeked in through the open car window, and only noticed a cell phone in her hand. No evidence of drugs or alcohol, but something was definitely not right.
A neighbor called 911 while I called my husband to walk over too. We stayed close by. We were worried, the girls and I, as we waited for emergency personnel to arrive. We did the right thing, we were later told. Whatever was wrong with her, she needed medical attention. It could have been absolutely anything from a drug overdose, to a diabetic induced shock, to being dehydrated or being drunk. The house she was in front of was random. She did not know them. How she got there, why she was there, we’ll never know.
What we didn’t do though, was beat her, rob her, kill her, drag her out of her car through the open window, drag her behind the house, or behind a dumpster. My husband didn’t arrive and brutally rape her, just because she was unconscious. Her being unconscious didn’t mean we got to victimize her in any way. One did not beget the other.
We helped her. We believe we saved her life. We did for her what we hope someone would do for one of our girls if they were in that situation. We only wish we’d done it sooner, on the way there, rather than on the way back from our walk.
How I wish for Brock Turner’s victim and her family, her parents and her younger sister, that he had made a different choice other than the one he did, but even more so, how I wish that the male judge hadn’t minimized what happened to this young woman, how I wish he hadn’t favored a former male champion swimmer’s life and experiences over the victim’s life and experiences. How I wish Brock Turner’s father, Dan Turner, hadn’t raised Brock to believe that getting “20 minutes of action” was a thing, hadn’t raised him to believe that raping an unconscious woman was a non-violent action, and hadn’t raised him to believe that his love of a good steak or loss of a swimming scholarship should be valued more than his respect for another human being’s body and life.
I wish and I hope and I pray that everyone would treat women, their bodies and their lives with respect, so that my girls, my future and fellow women, will have a safer world to live in than the one they live in today, because unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Not everyone in the whole world is nice.