Phi Beta Cons

The Stanford Rape

I am getting annoyed at the media coverage of the student at Stanford who was sent to jail for raping a young woman – one who was presumably unconscious, having drunk so much that her alcohol level was three times the legal limit. There is outrage at the light sentence (six months in jail, with the likelihood that he will cut that in half for good behavior); however, he will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. The young man, a swimmer at Stanford who is white and hired a good lawyer, is viewed as an example of white male privilege. And by calling the rape “20 minutes of action,” the young man’s father kicked off another round of outrage.

Hardly any attention is paid to to the woman’s role in the crime.

The student, Brock Turner, was wrong to do what he did, but wasn’t the young woman (whose identity has been protected) wrong, too? She read a 12-page “victim impact statement” to the court, which she addressed specifically to Turner. The description was grim and shocking, but it was based on police and hospital reports; she could not remember any of it.

She says that at the party preceding the rape, “I made silly faces, let my guard down, and drank liquor too fast not factoring in that my tolerance had significantly lowered since college.”

And:

Alcohol is not an excuse [for his raping her]. Is it a factor? Yes. But alcohol was not the one who stripped me, fingered me, had my head dragging against the ground, with me almost fully naked. Having too much to drink was an amateur mistake that I admit to, but it is not criminal.

Apparently some commenters did chide an Inside Higher Ed writer for not taking the state of the woman into account. The reply: 

First…not getting crazy drunk doesn’t protect young women from sexual assault; in addition, the prohibition from doing things men do with impunity serves to “other” [a verb] women. Even if we don’t approve of an activity, allowing one gender the freedom to indulge in it while saying that the same activity constitutes asking for it for another reinforces rape culture even if our intentions are totally positive.

Got that?

Jane S. ShawJane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...

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