I don’t remember every news story I’ve written.
I’ve reported on hundreds of events throughout my career; it’s impossible to recollect each one.
But a story I’ll never forget breaking – a story that will always stay with me, is the story of Brock Turner.
It’s a story that’s now infamous, for all the wrong reasons.
Turner made global headlines in 2016 when he received a six-month ‘slap on the wrist’ sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster on campus at a Stanford frat party.
In a court hearing that shocked the world, the then-20-year-old’s father argued his sentence was “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action”, essentially reducing the attack to an act not dissimilar to planting a whoopee cushion on someone’s chair.
In an even more stomach-churning twist of events, Turner went on to serve just half his sentence, walking free after three months in a California state prison.
It should be no surprise to anyone then, that over two years on from his crime, Turner appears yet to grasp the fact he did anything wrong.
This week he’s been back in the headlines asking for his attempted rape conviction to be overturned. Yes, he wants it thrown out, because, you guys, it’s, like, super hard getting a job and making friends and stuff when you’re a registered sex offender.
But what’s arguably even more insulting to his victim, is the fact his legal team are using a bizarre argument that, at the time of the attack, Turner “only” wanted “outercourse” with his victim (I’ll get to the definition of this idiotic term later), and thus, there was no intent of rape.
Wait – HUH?
If you’re confused, don’t worry; you’re not the only one. Even the judge in this case, Justice Franklin D. Elia, said, “I absolutely don’t understand what you are talking about.”
Actually, no one does. Because no one uses the term “outercourse” like, ever. If you can dig out an ancient sex ed book, there’s a very small chance you might find a reference to it, used as a way of describing sex in which there is no penis-in-vagina-penetration had.
But I’m not here to further reduce what Turner’s victim and her family have already been put through by going into a technical explanation of this never-heard-before term. I think we’re all grown-up and intelligent enough to know that sex is sex, and rape is rape – whether it’s had with fingers, or other objects that don’t happen to be a penis.
I’m not even here to talk about whether Turner’s lawyer – the guy who came up with this defence – ate one too many crayons as a child, or if Brock Turner is in fact the most callous person to walk the earth. (Because I think you already know the answer to both these things, too.)
I’m here because I’m tired of writing these kinds of stories.
I’m tired of the way they make my life just a little bit smaller and more unsafe, each time I have to write one – how I don’t let myself be alone at night anymore, how I’ve started distrusting men, and how I have a red hot anger inside me that has nowhere to go, because no one’s getting any justice.
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The Brock Turner case is not unique. It’s part of a long-running legacy of privileged men doing what they like, when they like, consequence-free.
A report released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics last year found the rate of sexual violence against women has increased dramatically in the last five years, with one in five women now victims of sexual assault.
And yet, of those offenses reported to police, just 17 percent result in conviction. Seventeen percent. That’s less than one quarter of sexual abusers who have to face any actual punishment for their crime. Please, read that again and really let it sink in.
Because, Brock Turner’s story wasn’t the only one of its kind I wrote that year when it first broke. I also reported on the Tulsa man who escaped conviction after forcing an intoxicated 16-year-old girl to perform oral sex on him, due to a legal loophole.
And of the gang rape of a 17-year-old girl that resulted in a suspended five-year good behaviour bond after three Melbourne men agreed to pay $30,000 to the victim. And of wealthy businessmen, Ehsan Abdulaziz, who successfully argued he “slipped and fell” into his victim’s vagina.
I wish I made these things up, I really do. Because they already sound like something ripped from a really bad horror movie.
But just as ridiculous as is Brock Turner’s insistence he didn’t intend to rape an unconscious, undressed woman he was found grinding on top of before fleeing the scene, is the suggestion I won’t have to write any more stories like this.
Because until the system changes – until our culture changes – privileged men like Turner will continue to get away with it.
However, unlike the short-lived consequences they face, their victims will continue to pay the price for their crimes indefinitely.
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