A few weeks ago I met up with someone I don’t see very often, whom I respect a great deal. This person told me a couple of stories about issues in his workplace. Although I value his opinion highly, I was struck at the time by the similarities in his stories: in both cases, I was told, a man was being victimized by a lying woman. In one case, the woman was crazy; the woman in the second case was vindictive. According to these stories I was told, by a person I love and respect and admire.

I have thought about this a lot.

Now I am reading that Brock Turner, the Stanford student who was caught in the act and convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman– click here for a summary of the case- has received only 6 months of jail time. Take a moment to read the victim’s impact statement.  Now, I’d like you to read Brock Turner’s father’s statement to the judge.

I have a son, whom I love beyond reason. I can sympathize with Brock Turner’s parents and their desire to make things better for their son. However, when I read Mr. Turner’s statement, this phrase told me everything:

These verdicts have broken and shattered him and our family in so many ways.

These “verdicts.” Not “Brock’s actions.” Not Brock’s refusal to acknowledge any wrongdoing, despite eyewitnesses to the attack; leading to a public trial by jury. No: being found guilty and held accountable– this is what broke and shattered him and his family. Evidently, Mr. Turner feels Brock should not be held accountable for his assault of an unconscious woman– witnessed by two other men, who stopped the attack; chased him down when he ran away; and held him for the police– possibly because Brock was intoxicated? Pretty sure there’s no free pass for people who break the law while drunk– drive a car, get into fights, steal things, assault people. No one gets to say, “Your Honor, I am not guilty of that DUI. I was drunk.”

But Brock’s father blames alcohol and the poor decision-making that it frequently fuels. Also “sexual promiscuity” which I can only assume refers to the victim, since Mr. Turner makes a point to let us all know that Brock only got “20 minutes of action” on his unconscious victim. And I have read people saying that the victim is also to blame for being assaulted, because she got so intoxicated. “Poor Brock can’t swim for Stanford anymore, and people are acting like it’s all his fault– if she wasn’t so drunk, she wouldn’t have been in that position in the first place” is how that works. Here’s the problem I have with that: while the victim’s choice to drink heavily might not have been a great choice, she didn’t break any laws. She didn’t attack anyone. Nothing she did or drank earlier in the night absolves Brock Turner of assaulting her unconscious body behind a dumpster. To imply that she is just a promiscuous, drunken troublemaker enables men like Brock Turner to believe his conviction is anything less than a direct result of his own actions. How about, instead of teaching our daughters that it’s their fault if they get raped, we teach our sons not to rape women? So that, when Brock Turner is with a woman who is so intoxicated she loses consciousness, he gets her to a safe place and makes sure she will be okay– or at the very least, calls someone who can do that for her– rather than assault her?

I think about a culture in which a sexual predator’s father asserts that the victim was promiscuous and his son is paying an unfair price. And I think about the conversation I had with my well-respected friend where, in both situations, he said the woman was at fault and the men were victimized. And I think how I must teach accountability to my daughters AND to my son. They need to know when to accept responsibility for their actions.

So does Brock Turner.

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