WARNING: This article may be triggering to survivors of sexual assault.
This past spring, the Stanford rape case went viral as millions of bystanders watched Brock Turner face a mere six-month sentence for his violent sexual assault of an anonymous woman. Despite being charged with three separate counts of assault, the 20 year-old student ended up spending three short months in prison for his devastating actions.
This case shocked the nation, sparking a conversation about the gravity of sexual assault, both on and off campus. We’ve seen the chilling statement that the victim read to her rapist in court, the disgustingly candid letters from Turner’s parents to judge Aaron Persky- and now, the fiercely unapologetic words of Emily Doe, a voice for assault victims everywhere.
Last week, Glamour Magazine announced Doe as their Woman of the Year, including her first statement since the one she read at Turner’s sentencing. In the letter, the now no longer anonymous survivor bravely expressed her emotions upon becoming the subject of thousands of online articles and news pieces.
She spoke of the heartbreak she felt upon hearing the short sentence her attacker would face, even her sadness in response to nasty comments about her journey to recovery. Doe explained that “victims are not victims, not some fragile, sorrowful aftermath,” but that those who have experienced sexual violence are survivors, “and survivors are going to be doing a hell of a lot more than surviving.”
Emily Doe has become an international beacon of hope for sexual assault survivors, using her highly publicized trauma to combat stigma and help other women who have been in her exact position. Even in the face of death threats, harassment, and otherwise hateful speech, the 23 year-old speaks with unmistakable strength and unapologetic resilience.
When news of the trial of Brock Turner first hit major media outlets, many avoided sharing and speaking out on the issue because they felt awkward. Some even went as far as to shame the victim for drinking and voicing support for the Turner family. Many would prefer to avoid the conversation about rape.
Since when has discomfort warranted altogether ignorance? Why should we feel the need to keep quiet about an issue as common and horrific as sexual assault? Where do we draw the line? It’s already common knowledge that one in four women have been raped or assaulted: chances are, if you’re reading this, you or someone you loved is a victim.
We are living in a world where rapists may serve only three months in prison, presidential candidates can brag about sexual assault while thousands call it ‘locker room talk,’ and even more people are still keeping their experiences of abuse a secret.
The problem lies in the fact that no one can say that they’ve been pressured to keep quiet about being robbed and no one has ever excused murder because of how the victim was dressed. These statements clearly aren’t true for sexual assault.
This is why it’s more urgent than ever before to start a conversation on sexual assault. In a time where survivors are pushed to the side, taught to hold their tongues, forgive and forget, it’s absolutely necessary to support these survivors.
Thanks to the American justice system, offenders of marijuana distribution are likely to serve more time than offenders of violent rape. This won’t change unless we change the way our society sees rape, unless we educate others and teach future generations to know that it is just as serious as murder. Listening to survivors like Emily Doe and sharing their stories is the first step in breaking stigma and ending rape culture.
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673