What Gets Rewarded Gets Repeated

A disturbing pattern of young women who were sexually assaulted by football players and other collegiate athletes has been met by infusing education into the conversation. As if educating victims on how to not be raped will solve the problem. There’s ample evidence to show how sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking has been overlooked and flat out dismissed on college campuses. Yet, sexual violence has become stereotyped as a result of too much alcohol and/or poor choices made by a  young woman. Of age drinking at a party isn’t illegal. Walking home from a late night of studying isn’t illegal. You know what’s illegal? Rape. You know what causes rape? Rapists.

Brock Allen Turner, the former Stanford swimmer who was discovered raping an unconscious woman, behind a dumpster on campus, was sentenced to six months in county jail and probation. Prosecutors had recommended that Turner receive a sentence of six years, but judge Aaron Persky determined that Turner’s age (20) — and lack of criminal history warranted him a much shorter sentence.  His previous drinking, acid taking and partying somehow escaped under oath testimony. “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” Persky said at Turner’s sentencing on Thursday. “I think he will not be a danger to others.”

The short sentence is a an abomination of the law. It suggests the judge partially placed blame on the victim as a contributor to the crime. In that respect, Turner’s sentencing was also punitive to the young woman he raped. Something the law didn’t need to do. Making victims accountable for crimes committed against them will result in a continuation of the reprehensible behavior we’re trying to stop.

The young woman who penned a heartbreakingly sober response to Turner gets that. “I can’t sleep alone at night without having a light on, like a five year old, because I have nightmares of being touched where I cannot wake up, I did this thing where I waited until the sun came up and I felt safe enough to sleep. For three months, I went to bed at six o’clock in the morning.” If you haven’t read the letter in its entirety, you must. You must share it. You must speak about it in order to fully humanize this crime. This young woman is a Stanford student. She’s bright and articulate. There are thousands of others in this country who can’t share their story in such a compelling way.

The FBI’s official definition of rape is “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” Under California’s antiquated rape law there must be “penile” penetration to be considered rape.

Last year an Association of American Universities survey of over 150,000 students at 27 universities across the nation found that 13.5 percent of female seniors had experienced “non consensual penetration involving physical force or incapacitation.” Three years before Brock Allen Turner was convicted Stanford University reported a sexual assault every two weeks.

If that frequency sounds high to you consider the fact that 4,964 sexual assaults were reported at four-year U.S. colleges and universities in 2014. Ultimately, what gets rewarded gets repeated. If we want young women to come forward, we have to deny judges who are elected officials the right to blame victims of sexual assault under any circumstances.

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