“To girls everywhere, I am with you.”
This is how a woman who was assaulted and raped behind a dumpster at Stanford University ended her statement to her attacker at his sentencing hearing. My admiration for this woman is seeping out of my pores. If this were me, my statement might have been taking off a carefully-chosen-extra-pointy stiletto and throwing it at the attacker’s head.
If I was brave enough to face him at all.
I am linking her statement below. Read it.
In it, this woman chronicles her night. She went to a party with her little sister, drank too much, and doesn’t remember the assault. (Want to judge her for drinking too much? Then judge me, too, because I’ve been there. In fact, in my twenties, I lived there.) She describes in painful-to-read detail waking up, bloody and bandaged in a hospital, missing her underwear, with pine needles stuck in her hair.
She talks about the intrusiveness of the rape kit, the investigation, the trial. I know a little bit about trials, and I can tell you it is no easy feat to stand your ground in front of a courtroom of strangers while being peppered with cross-examination questions carefully crafted to make you look like a drunk, lying, cheating whore. This woman is strong.
She talks about how she’s been changed, how her life has gone off-track, how she sleeps with a nightlight, how being social is painful, how she weeps in movies, and how her sister is consumed with guilt. How this is her new normal.
Read it. Read about how the probation officer said this offense was “less serious,” read about how the criminal defendant, Brock Allen Turner, never admitted to the crimes, showed no remorse, and used “I’m a really good swimmer” as his defense. Read about how the newspaper concluded their report of this rape with the criminal’s swimming times. That one really got me.
Read it. It’s long, but it’s important. It is so important.
I want you to read this woman’s words because I also want you to know that Brock Allen Turner was convicted on three counts of sexual assault and faced up to fourteen years in prison. This seems entirely reasonable to me because he goddamn mounted an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.
And yet, Mr. Brock Allen Turner, really good swimmer that he is, got a sentence of six months and probation. Six months. Where’s my stiletto.
“The judge said he feared a longer sentence would have a ‘severe impact’ on Turner, a champion swimmer who once aspired to compete in the Olympics.”
Seriously? The woman doesn’t say that the judge is a giant douche bag. But I will.
This woman ends her statement by thanking people. Thanking people. Out loud, in a courtroom, in front of her attacker. I think that’s the definition of grace under fire.
I want to add my thanks, with hers, to the two Swedish men on bicycles who saw the attack and saved her. Rapist Brock Allen Turner ran – of course he did – and these men ran after him, tackling Turner to the ground.
She says, “[T]hank you to the two men who saved me, who I have yet to meet. I sleep with two bicycles that I drew taped above my bed to remind myself there are heroes in this story. That we are looking out for one another. To have known all of these people, to have felt their protection and love, is something I will never forget.”
Let’s raise our sons to be these honorable men on the bicycles. When they are old enough, when they are ready, let’s ask our sons to read this woman’s statement and teach them that there are everyday heroes, and that they, our sons, can be them. Let’s teach our sons that being a hero is as easy as doing the right thing.
And while we’re at it, let’s teach our sons that raping women behind dumpsters is the wrong thing. Because, apparently, this is still not as obvious as it should be.
Her last line: “To girls everywhere, I am with you.”
Right back at you, sister. Right back at you.
Rebecca Masterson is a writer, speaker, and an advocate for children. For more from Rebecca, follow her on Instagram.