Turner Case Sparks Rape Awareness

Paola Henriquez, Staff Writer

In January 2016, an anonymous girl who was raped while unconscious behind a dumpster released a letter to her rapist, Stanford University student Brock Turner, in which she revealed details about her rape. Immediate outrage arose after the letter was publicized; people reacted angrily to headlines that portrayed the accused to be innocent or a “just a kid” or news outlets highlighting his skills as a swimmer to distract the audience from the issue. From the redundant interrogation Turner’s victim faced to the global support she received, each part of the situation needs to be addressed because each part influences our daily attitudes towards the topics of sexual assault and rape.

It’s important to acknowledge that women are not the only victims of rape, but that at the college level, sexual assault, its prevention and aid is a women’s rights issue. For various reasons, women are still scared to speak out about their experiences with assault.

“No one should feel like they have to accept what’s happening to them in fear of being ostracized,” senior Bianca Kwan said.

As the Turner story went viral, white privilege, the advantages that white people benefit from in Western and many imperialized countries, has been at the center of the dialogue. Many speculate that the judge, who has been involved in multiple controversies, the most recent being a case when an immigrant will receive at least a three-year sentence for a similar case, was lenient because of racial bias. Outbursts of anger emerged when Turner’s jail sentence was shortened to three months. People also compare the amount of time given to Turner with young black males who are being disproportionately incarcerated for less severe crimes, such as drug possession and petty theft. The case has created pathways for many issues to come to light that have been previously ignored, such as the way wealthy white men are treated in comparison to others in society.  

This case is so public because Turner is a wealthy young white man, coasting on many layers of privilege; he’s untouchable,” Chantilly alumni Alina Besalel (’15) said.

Government officials and college administrators need to stop disregarding the constant calls for justice and start enforcing regulations that are in the best interest of the students rather than the school’s reputation. According to endthebacklog.org, colleges rarely provide access to rape kits, which are used to collect evidence. The source also proved that kits that are used often go untested, thereby rendering them useless. A primary reason as to why rape kits are not sent to labs to be tested is that the expenses are higher than the colleges and states can afford due to low funding at both federal and state levels. Rape kits are beneficial because they can detect serial rapists through DNA analysis and can offer minor closure to victims. If a rape kit is backlogged, numerous steps have to be followed by the victim and their representatives to obtain information about the case which results in more expenses. The backlog can deter the victim from reporting due to the cost of the legal process, and the time-consuming and stressful nature of the process can further dissuade the victim from reporting in the first place. Also, lack of sufficient help and prevention makes students hesitant to report cases and can lead the victims to mental illnesses such as depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Education about these serious topics starts with the acceptance that assault happens; denial stalls society’s actions toward finding solutions. The stigmatization that is attached to heavy topics such as sexual education, disabilities, racial tensions and sexual assault are rooted deep within our society. The cycles of repression will be persistent struggles to eliminate and are the reason that an extensive dialogue about these issues is essential.