The NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault (the Alliance) praises the bravery of the survivor in the Brock Turner Case in sharing her story in the recently publicized witness impact statement. She brilliantly spoke to her convicted rapist of all the ways that she was disbelieved, blamed and made to feel invisible in the process of stepping forward as a survivor of sexual assault. She spoke truth to fiction about the effects of alcohol and the fact that drunkenness does not cause rape, the harm-doer does. The outpouring of public support for this survivor and the distain for the short sentence imposed by the judge Aaron Persky, will, I hope, galvanize all of us to do a better job of responding to this issue.
This survivor’s story provides many opportunities: to make our hospital response the best it can be for the survivor in the circumstances, to offer assistance and healing services, to utilize trauma focused methods of investigation and prosecution, to change our laws to rid it of obstacles to prosecution, to change attitudes that excuse and minimize the harm of sexual assault, and finally, so importantly, to ramp up our prevention efforts so that perpetrator behavior is stopped before it starts and when not, bystanders regularly intervene to protect.
With much momentum gained, we should put emphasis on our efforts to prevent another case like this on college campuses and neighborhoods. This cannot be done without concerted efforts at all social-ecological levels including individual, relationship, community and societal. Without changing social norms at these levels, prevention will not be achieved. This is why the Alliance is at the forefront working with colleges, nightlife establishments, and communities to deconstruct and challenge our social and cultural norms that perpetuate sexual violence. This might not happen over night, but it is the most effective way to create and reinforce a zero-tolerance culture for sexual violence.
The Stanford survivor’s statement speaks to other survivors everywhere and provides encouragement and support to whom have not spoken up, are afraid of being disbelieved or harmed by their perpetrators, those who face language or immigration barriers or the fear of discrimination from our criminal justice system. Let’s not leave any survivor behind in our fight for their justice.