Rape Culture and The Two Sides of Privilege

“We need to change the culture and it’s on all of us to do that.  Today a Santa Clara County jury gave a verdict that I hope will clearly vibrate throughout colleges, high schools and everywhere.”

-Jeff Rosen, District Attorney (speaking about the rape convictions of Stanford University student Brock Turner)

“She broke down upon hearing the verdict, but she feels validated, that finally her voice has been heard; she was violated and she was happy to hear that the jury saw that too.  Turner now faces up to 10 years in prison.”

-Alaleh Kianerci, Prosecutor

“The case came to a close Thursday when the judge sentenced Turner to six months in county jail and then probation, and ordered him to register as a sex offender (lifetime) for three sexual assault counts; assault with intent to commit rape, sexual penetration, with a foreign object of an intoxicated person and sexual penetration with a foreign object of an unconscious person. When handing down Turner’s sentence, the judge in the case said he feared that imprisonment would have a “severe’ impact on Turner.”

-Palo Alto Online News

My Dear Readers,

I don’t need to rehash the outrage of the judge basing his sentencing on the impact of prison on the offender and not on the crime’s impact on the victim.  We know how wrong that is. This week, I want to think more about the victim, and the concern that should be shown to her.

The 23-year-old victim, known as Emily Doe to protect her privacy, delivered the following words to the judge and the convicted defendant:

“You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my confidence, my own voice until today.  The damage is done, no one can undo it.  And now we both have a choice.  We can let this destroy us, I can remain angry and hurt and you can be in denial, or you can accept your punishment, and we can go on.”

—from Emily Doe’s impact statement

These are the words of a young woman with a strong will. The district attorney stated that the victim’s impact statement was “the most eloquent, powerful and compelling piece of victim advocacy that I’ve seen in my 20 years as a prosecutor.”

Reading this, we can comfort ourselves that she is fine, and is moving on with her life. This enables us to return ourselves to our own lives, moving through this highly paced society with the assumption that all is well.

However, all is NOT well.  It is imperative that we do not simply accept this part of the victim’s impact statement and look closely not only at how this young woman continues to survive this sexual assault and how she has responded to its impact upon her life.

This legal case started out as a “no-brainer.”  Two male graduate students, on a late night bicycle ride, observed a male behind a dumpster “with an erect penis humping a half-naked body.”  When they approached him, the young male ran away, was caught by the two bicyclists, and was held until the police arrived and took him into custody.

I have written before about white male privilege and the subtle impact it has on the daily life of so many people. This case may well have been resolved expediently had the assailant been a person of color, a religious minority, or a member of the LGBT community. I am sure that the “concern” that the judge showed for Turner would not have been extended to people with those backgrounds.

However, in this case, this was a young white man from a family with money who was a varsity swimmer and a member of an elite fraternity on campus—which makes this verdict—the judge’s concern for preserving his welfare over that of the person he victimized—the essence of privilege.

So instead of moving on with her life, which a legal hearing, a settlement, and a formal apology would have allowed her to do, the victim must now face powerful attorneys hired by the family, expert witnesses and private investigators who would focus on finding details about her personal life to use against her, loopholes to exploit, and concoct ways to invalidate her account of the sexual assault.

Concluding Remarks Dr. Kane

As I stated at the beginning, all is not well. However, with time, work, and her own strong will, Emily Doe can balance this life-changing event within her psychological self and eventually use it to drive her life and thrive in the future.

This event is a textbook example of complex trauma, and the experiences that Emily Doe shares in her statement show the effects of complex PTSD.  Aside from the initial traumatic event, there are vicarious and remembered traumas that she will continue to suffer, and will need the assistance of significant therapy to recover from.  From her full statement, linked here, she appears to be on her way.

Until the next crossroads, the journey continues…


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