Last night I read one of the most heartbreaking and eye opening letters. It was the letter of Brock Turner’s victim. She has been assigned the alias of Emily Doe, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t even need to know her name. Although she wrote the letter based off of her experience, what is so heartbreaking is that there are millions of other stories identical to hers that will never be heard. I don’t need to hear them, but they need to be heard. Not for my personal benefit but because every survivor deserves to be recognised. If you have survived, the world owes it to you to recognise that you are still alive. Beyond the misogyny, patriarchy and social elitism that fueled this story, there is a deeper story. Portrayed as a classic tale of he said, she said, the most damaging part of this all, is that in a world of he said, she said, what she says never really matters.
According to the Turner’s, Brock wasn’t to blame for what happened. It was as if they were participating in an awkward karaoke, but for some strange reason, they decided to sing along to Jamie Foxx’s all too well know song and blame it on the alcohol. Come to think of it, the reason wasn’t that strange at all. In a situation like this, you would have to be extremely brazen to make such a claim. In a situation like this, you would only say what you thought that you could get away with. It is clear that they definitely thought that they could get away with saying it. In a society that it is acceptable to ask rape victims what they were wearing when they got attacked, in a society where men can reveal as much of themselves as they want without fear of being attacked, in a society that teaches girls to cover up to protect themselves, the gender dynamics reflect more of a predator and prey situation than a male and female one. What she said didn’t matter long before she said it.
I get the whole modesty argument, but in my opinion, modesty has very little to do with the clothes that you choose to wear. What you wear shows how you want other people to see you but it does not say anything about how you want people to touch you. My biggest problem with this whole ‘modesty’ argument is that it feeds in to the rape culture. It makes evil acts acceptable for certain people because their victim was ‘asking for it coming out in a skirt that short.’ What sucks the most is that across the world, dress codes change. Men are able to define what is acceptable enough for a woman to be respected as a human being. What shocked me the most in South Africa is that women could wear the lowest top and be ok, but as soon as her trousers were too tight, it was a problem. But then over here, depending on the occasion, there are multiple different things that you have to take in to consideration. What sucks is that it shows how redundant these claims to modesty are. There is such a heavy influence placed on what the woman did to make the man act that way that it belittles men and turns them in to supposed feral creatures. If dressing in a certain way was modest then surely, what is ‘acceptable,’ would be universal, but instead the dress code is altered according to what arouses men, country by country and culture by culture.
What I love about her letter is that she wrote it. The courage that it must have took for her to write it and read it out loud to her attacker amazes me. It gives me hope. Because although in a battle of he said, she said, he is likely to win, when she speaks, you can guarantee that they will listen. It is common sense that nobody should ever be raped or sexually assaulted, but it is clear that this type of sense is not so common. In the UK, only 15% of people who experience sexual violence report it. And out of these reported crimes, the conviction rates are low and even falling. On average, there are 97,000 reported crimes and the greatest level of prosecutions in the UK happened in 2010/11, with only 4,208 people being convicted, including both men and women. I am not here trying to pretend that men don’t get assaulted, but the numbers aren’t the same and the treatment is not the same. Little boys aren’t told that they are distractions. For some strange reason, girls are the ones who are taught to control themselves, which is pretty ironic given the statistics. It’s absurd to think that in a rape case, someone would think of blaming alcohol as if alcohol is the rapist. When Doe spoke, she didn’t just speak for herself, she declared herself to be the voice of all victims. I’m not a pessimist. I honestly believe that things could change. Rape culture is a culture and just like every culture it is malleable. But until the victim is treated like a victim, the only justice that we will ever see is that in a world where she has been beaten down, degraded and trampled upon, she still finds the courage to speak.
“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
– Matthew 5:28