When my older sister messaged me over the weekend and told me to get behind a computer screen to read a 7,000-word victim impact statement written by an anonymous rape victim, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting myself into.
I had no idea, as I began to read those first few lines, how harrowing a read it would be. I was not prepared for how moved I would be and the scope of pain I would feel for a woman whose name I did not know and face I could not picture.
And I certainly wasn’t aware that I would finish reading it with a violent and simmering pit at the bottom of my stomach, resenting a justice system that failed her so tremendously. A justice system that told her that for all the years it will take her to re-build her life, her rapist will only need months to re-build his.
And I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. CNN news anchor Ashleigh Banfield decided to scrap 31 minutes of her Legal View television broadcast at the weekend and read the 12 page statement. A “gut-wrenching story,” she called it. One that was “riveting” and “important” and one she was determined people heard. The judge lamented the effect a lengthy sentence could have on the accused. Banfield wanted to talk about the impact of all of this on the victim. And she wanted you to listen.
But for all the anger and sadness and outrage we may feel at convicted rapist Brock Turner’s lenient sentence, we cannot feel surprise. And that the justice system’s propensity to protect rapists over their victims is as habitual as it is historically entrenched.
Because the horrific truth of this matter is simple: If you want to be a criminal, but don’t want to be convicted, be a rapist. We will protect you.
Jezebel reported this morning that for all our disappointment in a six-month sentence for sexual assault, we must not forget that Brock Turner will spend more time in jail than 97 percent of rapists.
That if we want to take the most pragmatic and cynical take on this entire ordeal, we should be thanking every god you may or may not believe in that Brock Turner is sitting in jail right now. Because the statistics will tell you that we rarely get these perpetrators behind bars.
— The Australian (@australian) June 8, 2016
An analysis of Justice Department data by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) will tell us only three out of every 100 rapists will ever go to jail. For all our work in educating society about consent, for all our efforts in being open and transparent about sexual assault, for all out outrage that victim-blaming still exists, we are still telling rapists, young and old, that they can keep raping. Because they are less likely to go to jail than almost any other kind of criminal. Closer to home, our treatment of rape victims in the justice system is only just catching up to public sentiment. Up until two years ago in Victoria, alleged offenders could use the fact that they believed the other was consenting as a defence. I mean, yes, she was asleep, but I believed she was consenting, they could say. Fast asleep, snoring, out to the world, they believed she gave consent. And if they said it convincingly enough, they would walk free.
Today, the laws are tighter. But the fact this was still happening two years ago says volumes about our inability to protect the vulnerable from those who have inflicted the most inconceivable pain into their lives. The most irreparable damage to their identities.
When we accuse someone of rape, people still flinch a little. The word rapist is a strong one. The concept of rape is a violent one. The crime itself is considered one of our most serious: one of the most brutal ways to strip another of their humanity and their safety and their sense of self.
We know this. And yet, when it comes to putting some of our most dangerous perpetrators of violence behind bars, we don’t do it.
Brock Turner, it seems, was just one of the unlucky ones. Just one of the 3 percent.