It has been impossible, recently, to avoid the story of Brock Turner, the Stanford college student convicted of three counts of sexual assault. I have read, with pounding heart, the movingly penned letter from the victim. I have fumed over the shortsighted, ignorance that seeped from the paragraphs of the letter from the assailant’s father. However, nothing distressed me more then the letter written by Leslie Rasmussen, the defendant’s longtime friend.
I have no desire to quote her dangerous words; but, in short, she directly blames the excessive use of alcohol and partying “encouraged” by college campuses for this unconscionable crime. She has since written an additional statement explaining how her letter, “has provided an opportunity to misconstrue my ideas into a distortion that suggests that I sympathize with sex offenses and those who commit them or that I blame the victim involved.”
No, Leslie, your letter has done so much more than that. As a mother raising a daughter (and a son), it frightens me to think that a 20 year old, seemingly educated, woman believes that there is anywhere, other then on Brock himself, for which to place blame for this heinous crime. The only thing, the only person, responsible for the sexual assault and rape of a woman is the rapist himself. I am stunned, and frightened that our young women still, in 2016, believe that there is any scenario in which a victim asks to be raped.
It is a very simple, black and white concept- if you don’t have clear, undeniable confirmation that the initiation of sexual intercourse is consensual, then the answer is, and always will be, NO. The dilution of this idea has resulted in the belief that there are varying shades of gray when it comes to consent. Let me be as clear as I can, there is no gray area, there is only an unquestionable “yes”, anything else, falls into the only other category, “no”.
We continue to live in a world that sees anything and everything besides the word, “yes” as a sign of consent. Consent is not if or how drunk she is, it’s not what she is wearing, or how much she is flirting, it’s not if she invites you to her room, or kisses you, or how she dances with you- no, none of these are ever an invitation, or permission for sexual intercourse. Consent is, and will only ever be, when one hears an undeniable “yes”.
I recognize that when on the brink of getting laid, we don’t often stop to ask consent and wait for our partner to confirm with a “yes, sure, absolutely, or let’s get it on”- it’s sex, not a business transaction. However, if there is any uncertainty, any hesitation, then go no further until all doubt (one way or another) has been eliminated.
Leslie had her friend’s best interest at heart with her letter, and, no one can fault that. I truly do not believe that she thinks rape victims are always to blame or is dismissing the severity of the crime. She is, however, highlighting the fact that young women are continuing to grow up considering that there are situations in which they are inviting rape- namely, those situations that involve drinking and drug use. Additionally disturbing is that this young woman has narrow minded, single scope view of a rape/rapist. A distinction is made between a man who randomly blindsides a woman and forces himself upon her and someone who is drunk and having uninvited sex with another person who is drunk. There is no distinction, rape is rape.
She is right in one way; alcohol does play a significant role in the excessive sexual assault of women, there is no denying this. It robs each party of the capacity to ensure that consent was sought and given. This fact alone does not mean that blame can be placed solely on the bottom of an empty shot glass; the alcohol did not commit the crime, only a person can rape another.
I lived alone, as a single woman in New York City for many years during my mid twenties. I went out and drank with girlfriends. I stayed out until the sun came up, wore clothes that made me feel sexy, and met guys at bars, parties, through friends of friends, at restaurants, and sometimes even just standing on the street. I went out on dates, first dates and group dates, set ups and ones I wish would end after only five minutes. I did these things with the expectation that I would not be a victim of rape. I wasn’t being reckless or careless, I had friends, family, and neighbors who always knew my whereabouts, calls were made and texts were shared as confirmation that we were all home safe and sound. No, I wasn’t stupid or naive, I carried (still carry) the belief that it was (is) my bodily right as a female human not to be touched unless I made it CLEAR that I wanted to be. I was (am) of the perception that all it should take, at any time, is to say, “We’re done now” and a man should stop.
Brock Turner was found having sex with a woman while she was unconscious. Without her permission, he put his penis inside of her; that is rape. There is nothing gray area about that.