Don’t sentence the victim, too

I wasn’t going to say anything. But after reading all of the commentary surrounding the Stanford rape case, I feel compelled to speak up. As the mother of a son. As the mother of a daughter. As a survivor of rape.

One common theme I see in all of these articles is the notion of a ruined life. Whether or not a harsher punishment would ruin the life of the rapist. The rebuttal that the young woman’s life has already been ruined.

Make no mistake: Brock Turner has ruined his life. Nothing will never be the same for him, whether he serves 6 months or 60 years. His face, his name are all over the internet now. No one doesn’t know him. He will forever be “the Stanford rapist.” No matter how he succeeds or fails in life, that shadow will dog him the rest of his days.

And that’s exactly as it should be.

I cannot speak for the young woman, obviously. None of us can. But I’ve been raped. And I would like to note that by telling her that her life has been ruined, we are sentencing her to a harsh punishment, one she absolutely does not deserve.

The circumstances of my rape were quite different than hers. I was sober. He was my boyfriend. I was not ready for sex. He didn’t care. I remember every second of what he did to me.

So no, I cannot relate to what she’s going through. My heart breaks for what she must be going through. What she will continue to go through. I remember what I went through, and at times it is still, all these years later, more than I can bear.

But I will say this: Her life is irrevocably changed. She is irrevocably changed. But she is not broken. She is not ruined. She may grieve. She may rage. She may stumble, and lash out, and cut people off. She may make regrettable decisions. She may retreat from the world. She may develop fears and phobias and anxieties. She may lose the will to go on. She may do all of this and more. But every day she gets up and carries on, every long night she makes it through to see the dim, red light of dawn, she will get a little bit stronger.

Eventually, she will go on to build a new life. Not the same life she would have had, no. But it can be a good life. I sincerely hope it is. She’s certainly earned it.

Prison isn’t the thing that will ruin Brock Turner’s life. He has already ruined his life, by showing everyone what a bastard he truly is. Most bastards can keep that dirty little secret to themselves, or at least keep the people who know it to a minimum. But not this guy. We all know his face, his name. His life is ruined because he no longer has anywhere to hide.

But let’s watch our words when sympathizing with the young woman he attacked. It took me a long time, years, to realize that my life was not, in fact, destroyed by my rape. The path I had been taking was destroyed. The person I used to be was destroyed. But I survived. I grew. I adapted. And I went on to build the most beautiful life.

Don’t toss the survivor out with the bastard. She’s still got a fighting chance.

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