The story of the sexual assault at Stanford has generated one news story after another and innumerable Facebook rants. The story, with a perpetrator who was an athlete almost certainly headed to the Olympics and a victim who wrote a heartwrenching letter to her attacker, easily draws an audience.
We have seen not only the statement the victim addressed to Brock Turner and the letter from his dad to the judge and the letter from an old friend to the judge but we have seen open letters to Brock's dad from another dad, to Brock's dad from a pastor, to the victim from the Vice President, to Brock's mom from a blogger, to Brock's dad from Bust.com...the list goes on and on.
The open-letter-writers, all vying for the title of Most Meaningful, are much the same: Brock committed a terrible crime, the parents either raised him wrong or need to teach him better lessons now, how dare he blame his crime on booze, and the victim is terribly, terribly brave. The number of people who feel compelled to tell the world how they feel about this particular assault is truly astonishing.
The attack on her is unfathomable...but aren't they all? Do any sexual assaults seem rational to you?
This is not the only--and certainly not the worst--sexual assault that has happened nor is it the only unjust sentence handed down. What happens in less publicized cases?
What happens to a victim who does not receive the outpouring of support this woman has received? What happens to a victim who feels worse when the press and Facebook insist on detailing and rehashing her particular trauma? What happens when a victim hears again and again that she will never recover from sexual assault?
What happens to defendants whose dads don't care enough to write to the judge, whose family cannot afford to pay for a good attorney or who are assigned an already-overloaded public defender?
The emotional shouters and open letter-writers have convinced the world that Brock Turner is the worst kind of rapist even though he was not convicted of rape.
When we let a victim statement or public outrage on behalf of the victim influence a sentence or lead to recalling a judge, we do an injustice to victims who are less articulate or whose attacks fail to draw public notice. We do not arrive at justice when punishment is meted out according to the amount of public outrage generated by the press.
But, you cry, this six-month sentence was egregious! Surely the world can see that, in this particular case, something must be done!
Here is a question for you: Is your yearning for justice confined to cases with sympathetic victims? Are you just as outraged when false allegations of sexual assault are made? When the accused says, "I didn't do it," do you assume he (or she) is lying? Do you assume that accusations mean certain guilt?
Brock Turner's six-month sentence got a lot of people riled up. Who gets riled up when someone is wrongly convicted and sentenced to years or decades in prison?