In March, former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner was convicted of three felonies related to his sexual assault of an unconscious woman. In June, the judge sentenced the 20-yr old Turner to 6 months in jail. “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” Judge Persky said of Turner. “I think he will not be a danger to others.” As people got wind of this, outrage erupted. The outrage has been visible on every social network and in nearly every major news outlet.
The Stanford sexual assault victim’s impact statement has been published on countless websites and was read live, in full, on air by Ashleigh Banfield, anchor of CNN “Legal View”. She crafted a very vivid and powerful picture of who she was before the rape and how her life has changed. She addressed Turner directly. It’s quite a powerful narrative and definitely worth reading and sharing with others. It’s an excellent piece to use to talk to your teens, sons and daughters alike.
We’ve heard from a childhood friend of Brock Turner, Brock’s father, and Brock himself. All three have failed to grasp the gravity of Brock’s choice to sexually assault an unconscious woman. The friend, Leslie Rasmussen, a female, blamed political correctness for putting her friend on trial. Rasmussen went on to question why the jury should believe a woman who doesn’t remember anything. Rasmussen seems oblivious to the fact that being unconscious and unable to recall what happened is exactly why her friend was convicted. She tries to suggest this was some crazy alcohol-fueled college kid misunderstanding. Brock’s father, Dan Turner, also made a statement on behalf of his son. It seems Brock is so distraught that he can’t eat a nice steak or steal potato chips and other snacks from his father. And being the concerned parent, Dan goes on to say that his star-athlete son shouldn’t have to pay the rest of his life for ’20 minutes of action’, as if punishment is meted out based on how long the crime lasted. Dan also seems to think that his son could easily pay for his crime by talking to students about the perils of drinking and sexual promiscuity. Not once did he show any concern for the victim or how difficult her life has become since his son raped her. Finally, we get to Brock Turner’s statement, which is a diatribe about how he was forced to drink to have friends and he was doing what he thought drunk college kids normally do. Only his story was one that was crafted to explain everything away and shift blame to anyone he could.
In brief interviews, we’ve heard from the two students that chased, tackled, and held Brock until the police arrived. Carl-Fredrik Arndt and Peter Jonsson, both from Sweden, spotted Brock Turner on top of an unconscious woman and after a moment thought there was something wrong with the situation. It’s because of them the crime was reported. Had they not come along and intervened it’s likely the victim would have been left alone and when she regained consciousness, unable to recall what happened, returned to her home.
We’ve heard from most everyone involved with the parties of the Stanford sexual assault. And while we don’t know the victim’s name or identity, it’s her prerogative to remain anonymous. I don’t blame her. She’s been through enough. She doesn’t need to become the poster child of a movement. In fact, her voice is likely more powerful because we don’t know her. She represents every woman. She is all of us.
The people we haven’t heard from are her parents. I’m sure they were with her throughout the ordeal. In her statement, the young woman barely refers to her parents. I’m sure it was especially difficult to watch this circus and witness first hand the trauma of seeing their daughter dragged through a trial. I’m certain they were there to support their daughter, perhaps not knowing what to say or do but wanting to take care of their little girl.
No one has talked about her parents, so I will. I know they have a story but it’s so intertwined in that of their daughter they remain silent. If they come forward they risk removing the anonymity she’s worked hard to maintain. When it comes to the victim, rarely do others get to provide in-court statements about how awesome the victim is and how she’s changed because of the horror of being through such an awful crime. Victim impact statements are often singular, not a parade of friends and family providing insight and context to the life shattered. Unfortunately, many victims don’t even get to give a statement lest it be viewed as inflammatory or degrading of the defendant. Yah, seriously! Some judges limit what a victim can say because they don’t want to make the defendant feel bad.
We may never know the hell her parents have gone through. Parents of sexual assault survivors often stand in the shadows. Not because they’re not deeply involved in the care and support of their child. Rather, their pain is often so entwined in a story that doesn’t belong to them.
As parents we advocate for our children. Even as they become adults, we’re still there for them. Our child gets very sick and we start a website to keep everyone informed. Our child is killed in a senseless act of violence and we think nothing of talking to the news and sharing photos of our baby, even if that baby is a grown man or woman. Our daughter is involved in an abusive relationship, we’re open about it so we can educate our community. But when your child is sexually assaulted, raped, it doesn’t matter how old they are you are enveloped by a cloak of silence despite having a story to tell. Being the parent of a sexual assault survivor is its own story, yet it’s kept silent. Parents of sexual assault victims often suffer in silence not knowing that others have a shared experience and understand their pain, are able to overcome the sorrow they feel, and continue to advocate for their child.
So while we provide support for Jane Doe, give a little extra thought about her parents. People who have had to stand by and watch as the judicial system allowed her to be victimized over and over. A mother and father whose heart was broken upon hearing what happened to their little girl. Two people who sit in silence knowing that they don’t get a voice and an opportunity to tell you how they feel and how amazing their daughter was. And still is.
I feel for them. While I won’t go into detail why I wanted to give their silence some perspective, just know that I know this silence is isolating. And at times it’s deafening. They’re without a support network, much like other parents of sexual assault survivors. It’s a difficult position to be in, but like the many who’ve gone before them on this quiet journey they will emerge stronger. That is, if the silence doesn’t break them first.