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The Stanford Sexual Assault Case and British Tea

A friend of Brock Turner provided a letter in support of the accused for the courts consideration. Her letter stated that being kidnapped on your way to your car and being raped is "real" rape. That is the rapist to fear. She goes on to say that Brock should not be held responsible for the girl being intoxicated and that he is no rapist. His father cited that Brock should not have his future ruined as a result of "20 minutes of action". Brock cited party culture and showed no remorse/culpability for the effect of his actions.

These are infuriating but understandable statements. Victim blaming is a natural human response because it protects us from the idea that a similar situation can happen to us. Little Red Riding Hood (a fable about sexual assault) taught us from a young age that wearing red, veering off the approved path, etc result in assault. These are parallels for what often compliments university assault: skimpy clothes, intoxication, and staying out late. People buy into this fable by telling themselves that a victim is partly at fault because he/she didn’t obey the rules to avoid rape. This comforts us and lets us know we wouldn’t fall prey because we wouldn’t put ourselves in that position. It's essentially a coping mechanism to help us deal with the very real possibility that any one of us could be sexually assaulted.

The key to understanding sexual assault is to understand consent. Using the tea example here it seems pretty clear. It seems clear that you should not force someone to drink tea if he/she changed his/her mind or is unconscious. They could choke and die. Your desire to be hospitable and offer tea does not outweigh the bodily harm it could cause to force a person to drink tea. So let me be clear - sex without consent IS rape. Although the criminal profile is different depending on how the rape is committed; if a rape occurs that person IS a rapist. Alcohol is considered and documented as the #1 date rape substance. To excuse a rapist due to alcohol is simply wrong.

Flip the script.

Teaching young girls how to not become victims is a harmful approach to avoiding campus sexual assault. Skimpy attire, silence, and previous interest are not indicators that it is less of a violation. The conversation needs to shift to teach children and young adults how to avoid becoming perpetrators and teaching bystanders to intervene. The mere fact that we teach cautionary tales and tips to avoid becoming a victim contributes to our tendency to blame the victim. It’s time for each and every one of us to do our part. If you are weary of a situation – get involved. If you have a son – teach him how to intervene and what consent is. If you have a daughter – teach her how to intervene and what consent is. If you a have friend that is confused about a situation – encourage him/her to seek out a guidance counselor or another support mechanism. We can change rape culture and we can shift our own approach to help someone who may be in need. Let's start there.



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