Stanford Rape Case: Why Young Men Need to Read the Statement of Brock Turner's Victim

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People walk by Memorial Church on the Stanford University campus on May 22, 2014, in Stanford, California. After Stanford swimmer Brock Turner was convicted of three felony counts for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, his father sparked outrage on social media by saying Turner should not be incarcerated for "20 minutes of action." Justin Sullivan/Getty

When Brock Turner sexually assaulted a woman on the Stanford University Campus, he committed her to a devastating journey, the latest stage of which is seeing him sentenced to what many people think is an unbelievably lenient six months in prison. She describes this journey in heartbreaking detail in a victim statement submitted to the court as part of sentencing.

The 12-page statement has been published in full and has gone viral, with more than four million views since the weekend. And it is a harrowing read. From waking up alone and confused on a hospital gurney; enduring invasive, repeated examinations; discovering she's been sexually assaulted and how she'd been found, alone, naked, on the ground among the rubbish. We find out how she pieces the events of the night back together in her mind. How she struggles to tell her family and keep body and soul together, pretending she's fine. She talks about preparing for the ordeal of the trial, trying to second guess the prosecutor's questions and make sure she's "believable." Then she describes the trial itself, having to listen to her attacker's defence. We are left knowing that this is an event that she may never fully walk away from; it has changed her life.

Brock Turner's father also made a statement. His was submitted to the court in mitigation for his son's crime in the hope of persuading the judge to be lenient in sentencing. In his statement he dismisses the rape, by his son, of an unconscious woman as "20 minutes of action." He views the assault as a lesson in the "dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity," concerned about the impact on his son's future, and not about the impact on the woman he attacked. As much as the victim's statement gives an insight into the impact sexual violence has on a victim, Turner's statement tells us much about the culture Brock was brought up in. It echoes the response to high profile cases up and down the U.K. where victims are blamed and we're asked to spare a thought for the reputation of the man who is accused. It suggests that Brock's athletic achievements somehow trump the violent sexual assault of a woman.

This case joins a growing list of high profile cases involving assaults on female students in colleges in the U.S. and U.K. There is increasing concern about the safety of female students and whether authorities are taking appropriate action to address this. We don't go to university to simply get a degree—it is where young people develop their independent characters, socialise and explore adult sex and relationships. This places huge responsibility on the institutions where young people congregate to ensure women are safe and able to participate fully in university life.

NUS research shows us that women in full-time education are more likely to experience sexual violence than others. One in seven women had experienced a serious physical or sexual assault during their time as a student in the UK and over two thirds experience verbal or non-verbal harassment, including groping, flashing and unwanted sexual comments.

In the U.S. this has led to the White House setting up a Sexual Violence Taskforce to raise awareness of and document the prevalence of sexual violence on campus. In Britain Universities UK is running a taskforce investigating sexual harassment and sexual violence that will make recommendations this autumn for changes in how universities respond to such abuse.

It's very late to start a conversation about sexual consent, healthy relationships and gendered violence when someone starts university. These are conversations which we need to have with young people as they develop, in schools and at home. But this case shows us that we need to continue that conversation. Boys and young men who read the victim's statement will get an insight into the impact sexual violence has on women and girls.

This statement gives us a better understanding of why up to 85 percent of rapes in the U.K. are never reported and how devastating sexual violence is for victims. And Brock's father shows us what happens when you put athletic achievement above character development. Brock felt entitled to have sex that night, he wasn't going to let a lack of consciousness or consent get in the way of that. And the impact is devastating.

Rachel Krys is the co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition

Stanford Rape Case: Why Young Men Need to Read the Statement of Brock Turner's Victim | Opinion