CONTENT WARNING: This post deals with rape and sexual assault and may be distressing.
One night I asked my boyfriend if he would pick me up from the busstop at night.
He looked at me, confused.
Couldn’t I just walk home?
The busstop is a ten minute walk from my house. There’s noone around. Why should I be afraid?
It’s just the dark, right?
Why is it any different for me?
Because the fact that I am a woman sets me apart from him.
This week we have seen a convicted rapist get off with a slap on the wrist.
He was young, they tell us. He had great potential. The potential to swim at the Olympic Games. To be a star.
He can hardly eat, they tell us.
He’s been horribly, horribly effected. Poor thing. He’s being sent to the clink for six months for “20 minutes of action”. He’s not a bad man.
Brock Turner is a bad man. Brock Turner, the swimmer with the whole world ahead of him, is a rapist.
It is not so much the fact that a young man raped a woman that shocks me. It’s the systematic and unfounded victim blaming that confounds me.
How is it, that to this day, the word “no” is so tainted by ambiguity.
How is it, that still, we don’t understand that an unconscious woman is not in the right state to provide consent? How is it, that even though the rapist fled the scene after he had been confronted by two strangers, after he had violated a woman he didn’t know in an alleyway, we still question whether she was asking for it?
How is it that an unconscious woman, who is pressed up against a dumpster being penetrated by a man consumed by his arrogance and entitlement, can be told that the abuse she was subject to was only worth six months in jail because he had his whole life ahead of him.
He should be let off from the maximum sentence of 14 years because, you know, he was a swimmer and great guy when he wasn’t raping people.
She is told that his life is more important than hers. She is told that by coming forward, she has shattered his Olympic dream and compromised his ability to savour his favourite meal.
A woman, who is unable to speak because she is passed out, is not capable of consenting.
The amount she has drunk is not your invitation.
What she is wearing is not your invitation.
Brock Turner has now been banned for life by USA swimming. He will not compete in the Olympic trials. His dreams of swimming at the Olympics is gone for good. Because he thought he was invincible enough to rape a woman and get away with it.
Perhaps this will act as a reminder to the young men out there who live with a similar sense of invincibilty. Who believe that the length of a woman’s skirt or level of intoxication is an invitation. Who believe that consent is given automatically when neither a “yes” or a “no” is uttered.
A brave woman was willing to stand up in court, despite the disapproving looks and searing questions from the defence, and tell the world how she was violated by a man she did not know.
There are many, many woman who have been silenced. There are many, many stories that remain untold. There are many women who weren’t able to tell their story out of fear for their safety or the questions that will follow her for the rest of her life. There are women who watched their rapist walk free because there was not sufficient evidence to convict them.
There is something very wrong with this picture. It is not good enough that a young man was convicted to six months imprisonment for raping an unconscious woman; abuse that will remain with her for the rest of her life and impact every relationship she has going forward. It is not good enough that we still ask the victim those same degrading questions: what were you wearing, how much were you drinking?
Because that is part of the problem. The idea that if a woman presents herself in a certain way she must be asking for it. The idea that a woman’s presentation is an invitation or an indication of consent.
I ask my boyfriend to pick me up from the busstop because I’m afraid. I’m afraid that my gender will set me apart. That the fact I am a woman may make me a target.
Because him walking home alone at night is not the same.