The Stanford rape: Who is to blame, the rapist or the victim?

Brock Turner alone is to blame for the sexual assault of a young woman on the Stanford campus, but are victims ever to blame? Hillary Clinton says "yes."

0
2192
Brock Turner: Image from open use images compiled by ABCNews.com
Brock Turner: Image from open use images compiled by ABCNews.com

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2016 — The six-month sentence handed to former Stanford student Brock Turner ignited outrage and flamewars across social media. Turner was convicted of three charges in March: assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated or unconscious person; penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object; and penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.

He was not convicted of rape.

The FBI defines rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object … without the consent of the victim.” The rape charge against Turner was dropped because under California law, rape requires penetration with a penis.

California is one of the few states that treats penetration with other objects as less serious than penetration with a penis.



Campus Sexual Assault: In defense of women learning self-defense


Turner was therefor never eligible for the harshest punishment meted out for rape. His six-month sentence (probably only three with good behavior) is still outrageously short, according to critics who are demanding the recall of Judge Aaron Persky. Persky worried when he announced the sentence last week that a long—up to 14-year—sentence would be damaging to Turner’s future. Turner has had no prior record to this event.

The furor over Turner’s sentence has raised issues that aren’t trivial: Did the inebriation of both Turner and his victim mitigate the seriousness of the crime? Do victims in this case bear any responsibility for the crime? Did race and class have an impact on Persky’s choice of a light sentence? What should campuses do to reduce the impact of “rape culture” on their students and on society?

Turner’s responsibility is clear. The opportunity to commit a crime is not justification, nor is the behavior of the victim. If a car owner fails to lock or otherwise secure his car, he is careless, but he does not deserve to have his car stolen. The car thief is entirely responsible for the crime and deserves the same punishment he’d receive if the car were locked.

This principle could be described as a type of “strict liability”: The injurer is always wrong. Only it isn’t universally applied. In civil law, there is often a standard of negligence with a defense of contributory negligence. The injurer is to blame only if he was negligent, if he behaved in a unreasonable way, but the negligence of the injured party mitigates that blame.

It’s the “way she was dressed she was asking for it” application.

This standard is implicit in arguments made by some of Turner’s defenders. His victim was drunk, and so was he. Neither behaved in an appropriate way and their joint behavior led to the sexual assault behind a dumpster.

In a letter to Judge Persky, Leslie Rasmussen, a friend of Turner asked, “Where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn’t always because people are rapists?” She argued that the assault was really about drunken partying, not rape. “These are idiot boys and girls having too much to drink and not being aware of their surroundings and having clouded judgement.”


Words Matter: Rape isn’t sex, and ISIS rapists aren’t husbands


According to the Washington Post, the attitude that says drunken assault is not rape is common on college campuses. Professor Mary Koss, who coined the term “date rape” in the 1980s, told Post writer Danielle Paquette that, in Paquette’s words, “young men think that, if they’re as intoxicated as a female partner, whatever happens can be blamed on the alcohol. She adds that others think young women secretly want to be pushed into a sexual encounter.”

The victim should not have drunk so much that she passed out; that’s completely irresponsible behavior. It does not in any way mitigate what Turner did. It does suggest that there need to be more changes on campus than condemnation of “rape culture” and attacks on patriarchal models of masculinity.

Leaving a car unlocked doesn’t mitigate the crime of auto theft, but people who don’t lock their cars can’t object that the theft of their vehicle was entirely random.

Rape may be the one crime where we wish to absolve the victim of any responsibility. We shake our heads at people who leave their doors unlocked, their property unattended in a restaurant, their keys in the ignition. When something bad happens to them as a result, we punish the perp when we catch him, but we still lecture the victim.

Why is rape different? Perhaps it’s because the precautions to avoid it are more personal, forcing us no just to do things differently, but to be different. No one takes it amiss to be told “lock your door,” even by a stranger, but we resent deeply advice to change our behavior, even by loved ones.

Women are right: They should be able to dress as they please, go where they please, and drink themselves insensate without fear of being raped. You should be able to leave your wallet on a table in a crowded restaurant while you go to use the restroom, and return to find the wallet and its contents still there. But your expectations won’t change human nature or the world. You can only change yourself.

When rioters attacked Donald Trump supporters at a rally in San Jose, Mayor Sam Liccardo observed, “at some point Donald Trump needs to take responsibility for his irresponsible behavior.”

Hillary Clinton condemned the violence, but not entirely:

“I condemn all violence in our political arena. I condemned it when Donald Trump was inciting it and congratulating people who were engaging in it,” she said, adding, “[Trump has] set a very bad example. He created an environment in which it seemed to be acceptable for someone running for president to be inciting violence, to be encouraging his supporters, now we’re seeing people who are against him responding in kind.”


Campus tales: Manspreading, rape, and Title IX idiocy at Northwestern University


Liccardo and Clinton gave in to the urge to blame Trump for the violence against his rally, as did numerous op-ed writers. Some even suggested that there should be more of it(Huffington Post writer calls violence ‘logical’ response to Trump). The responsibility, after all, was Trump’s.

Our view of crime and victimization is rife with contradictions. “Don’t riot” is good advice, and “don’t attack people who aren’t threatening you.” That is don’t attack unless they deserve it because of their crummy politics.

Even our view of sexual assault is contradictory. On many campuses, a woman can’t consent to sex if inebriated, but if both parties are drunk, it’s no defense for the man. Our view of sex is political, especially on college campuses. “Don’t commit rape” is good advice, and “it’s rape if there’s no consent.”

The rules on what constitutes rape and consent are inconsistent and asymmetric, however, leaving rape as a political issue.

Brock Turner and Brock Turner alone was responsible for sexually assaulting a woman after a drunken party and he probably deserves a stiffer sentence than he got. However, we’re all responsible for ourselves, not for anyone else.

Young women and some young men are sexually assaulted on campuses across America almost daily, and not one of them deserves it.

But they and they alone are responsible for their own actions, and they should be told without squeamish, PC weaseling that they can reduce the odds of being victims.

Responsibility, not blame, not guilt, just responsibility, falls on all of us, all the time. Life is about learning to deal with responsibility and with consequences, deserved and undeserved. It’s a lesson Turner’s parents failed to teach him.

He didn’t just abuse alcohol; he attempted a rape, and that’s his fault. But a party full of kids behaved irresponsibly that night, and two of them will carry the wounds of that, even if only one carries the blame and the guilt.

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 Communities Digital News


This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities Digital News, LLC. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

Correspondingly, Communities Digital News, LLC uses its best efforts to operate in accordance with the Fair Use Doctrine under US Copyright Law and always tries to provide proper attribution. If you have reason to believe that any written material or image has been innocently infringed, please bring it to the immediate attention of CDN via the e-mail address or phone number listed on the Contact page so that it can be resolved expeditiously.