One of my Sunday afternoon pleasures is to read newspaper stories — long well-written ones. My reading source of choice would be to have the actual newspaper in hand, but I quit doing that years ago. Anyway, it’s almost as good to peruse stories from faraway in the big papers — the Washington Post, New York Times, Fort Worth Star-Telegram or Dallas Morning News — via the Internet.
Sunday, a friend shared the link to the story of the rapist, who unless you’ve been under a rock this last week you’ve surely read or heard about by now.
Just as a recap, Brock Turner, at the time he committed a horrible sexual assault, was a freshman at Stanford University on a full-ride swimming scholarship. In Jan. 17, 2015, two bicyclists happened upon Turner behind a trash bin where he was lying on top of and sexually assaulting an unconscious and naked 22-year-old woman. Turner insisted it was consensual sex, despite the fact he didn’t know the woman’s name and she was lying there, not moving.
What we’ve learned in the media firestorm since is that Turner wasn’t quite the innocent, led-astray kid who made an alcohol-crazed single bad decision in attacking and assaulting the woman, also drunk, who had been at the same frat party. It appears Turner is an aggressive type who was seeking prey.
Turner — and you probably know this part too — was convicted of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object. He was sentenced to six months in county jail, will probably serve three, and must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. His sentencing had come just a few days before the Sunday story that I read was published in the Washington Post.
My intent was to read a few graphs, but I could not stop myself. At the end of the story was the victim’s 11-page impact statement. I can’t remember getting so involved in reading something ever before. This beautiful woman was eloquent in her statements, brutally honest and very brave. I’ve never been raped, though I’ve surely allowed myself to be taken advantage of, but I read every word — stopping at times to wipe away tears. I empathized with this woman’s agony; celebrated her steps toward her courageous recovery; congratulate her for her bravery; love her for what her coming out with her truth might do to protect other young innocents.
The victim acknowledges her stupidity for being drunk, but points out the cruelty of the system in place to try and prove the victim guilty and the perpetrator a victim.
Her words and wisdom have resonated in my consciousness since I read her full statement. I’ve wondered what we can do. See, here’s what I am talking about. We have all this societal brouhaha about what restroom the transgendered should use, but at universities, the clean-cut all-American athletes who play their game well just keep doing what they’ve always done.
And no, no, a thousand times no, I am not saying every athlete, or even anywhere close to a majority are rapists or in any way guilty of such horrific behavior. I’m saying a very, very few very, very bad apples have committed horrible sex crimes against females, who have to fight to be believed and who aren’t only not protected, but hardly respected. A few is too many.
It’s another ill I can’t fix. In the meantime, let’s warn our daughters, sisters and granddaughters. Tell them what could happen. Let’s say that it’s not supposed to be about how much they drank, what they wore or who they trusted, but it is anyway. Let’s tell them to be as smart and savvy as they can be; to be careful. Find a trusted buddy who will have their back. Watch what they’re drinking and how much. And watch their cup — lest someone should slip something inside. Don’t be too trusting of anyone, anywhere. It’s true. The creepiest looking dude may not be the one you should be afraid of.
Tuesday night, after the summer volleyball game, my granddaughter and I sat in the driveway and over hamburgers and fries her daddy had fixed at the restaurant where he’s kitchen manager, I shared with her my every fear. Made her promise to read the statement and made her swear she would be careful. I’m going to repeat what I’ve said, again, soon.
Editor’s note: Candace Cooksey Fulton is a freelance writer, formerly of Brownwood, now living in San Angelo. Her weekly columns are published Sundays in the Brownwood Bulletin and Thursdays in the San Angelo Standard-Times and are unique for each paper. She can be reached at email@example.com.