TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains disturbing details of sexual assault.
On June 23, 2013, three Vanderbilt football players allegedly raped an unconscious woman while a fourth man named Brandon Vandenburg, who had organized the gang rape, watched. Vandenburg, now 23, will be given a new trial following his conviction last June that was overturned.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with his story, Vandenburg had brought his inebriated and unconscious then-girlfriend back to his dorm where his three roommates sexually assaulted her. According to prosecutors, Vandenburg passed out condoms and filmed the assault.
Deputy District Attorney General Tom Thurman told jurors that Vandenburg is heard giving the men instructions in the video, all while encouraging them and laughing.
via: Stanford University Police
This situation, while different in many ways, echoes the same problems and issues brought about last summer when Stanford rapist Brock Allen Turner was given just a few months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious victim in an alleyway behind a dumpster. The judge feared jail would be too psychologically damaging for Turner, and since it was his first offense, he was given merely six months' sentence, of which he only served three.
I suppose I could go on and on listing other similar stories where women are assaulted and the men involved are quickly forgiven, but the common theme in the stories seems to involve the privilege of being white and male.
Why are white men forgiven so quickly when found guilty of sexual assault?
Let's contrast Turner’s story with that of Cory Batey, a black man. Batey was a former Vanderbilt football star, and at the age of 19, he was found guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. He received a punishment of 15 to 25 years in prison for one count of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual assault.
White college and professional athletes are often treated as some sort of gods who can do no wrong, and Hollywood apparently does the exact same. Back in 2010, two women who had worked on Casey Affleck's film I’m Still Here filed sexual harassment suits against him. One of the women claimed that Affleck crawled into bed with her without her consent and the other claimed he became violent with her after she refused him. Despite all of this surfacing in 2016, Affleck won a damn Oscar.
Contrast his story with that of Nate Parker, a black director whose career was seemingly ruined when his past sexual assault allegations surfaced -- of which he was acquitted -- and something doesn't quite add up.
Somehow, we end up humanizing these monsters and creating reasons the public should empathize with them, while dehumanizing the victims in the process.
The victim blaming begins almost immediately when victims of sexual assault come forward: "What did she have on?" "What is her sexual history?" And my personal favorite, "How much did she have to drink?"
The first two questions don't matter. Period. What she has on and what her sexual history is holds absolutely zero weight in this. And the last, "How much did she have to drink," is almost always pinned as the woman's fault and then turned around and used as an excuse when men just "had too much to drink."
It was used in this current case as Brandon Vandenburg's excuse. It was Brock Allen Turner's excuse. It was Casey Affleck's excuse.
Vandenburg was ultimately sentenced to 17 years in prison, but is that just? When Bernard Noble, 49-year-old father of seven -- and a black man -- is serving more than 13 years behind bars in Jackson Parish Correctional Center in Jonesboro for the possession of two joints, why aren't we giving actual violent threats to society harsher punishments?
via: The Odyssey Online
Men like Brock Allen Turner and Brandon Vanenburg should not be given the right to make up for what they did with "good behavior." By excusing these rapists' actions and claiming they've "learned from their mistakes," we are only perpetuating rape culture.
It is these types of cases which inflict fear in victims, resulting in many refusing to come forward with their stories. It silences far too many victims. This often means sexual predators are free to do whatever they please, as their victims know exactly what will happen if they choose to take legal action.
Far too often, we do not want to come forward, because we are terrified of being dismissed. We are terrified that our assaulter will be given nothing more than a slight slap on the wrist — IF that — and even more terrified of the stigma that will follow us around for the remainder of our lives.
The long-term effects rape has on victims are endless, and I say that from experience.
It’s very possible Vanenburg has done something similar in the past, but we will never hear about it. Well, when the predator is white and privileged (and I cannot forget to mention his stellar future as a promising athlete), then he can truly do no wrong.
And now I urge you that instead of saying, “Imagine if she were your sister or mother or girlfriend,” stop for a moment and imagine that she is a goddamn human being.
She is a person. She is not your sister. She is not your mother. She is a person.
via: Village Voice
We need to stop putting women, and in this case, victims of sexual assault, in a category below their assaulters. This holds true in the workplace, in matters of verbal assault, and in every day scenarios where women are dismissed as something a little bit less than men.
We need to stop treating athletes and actors as if they are modern day heroes or gods. We need to stop pretending that being white means when you break the law, it was just a mistake or simply “twenty minutes of action.”
We need to stop making light of violence towards women.
Mostly, I believe from the bottom of my heart, we need to take each and every case of sexual assault seriously. If each and every victim of assault came forward, the sheer number alone would overwhelm us all.
Your arguments which place blame on victims, calling them liars or claiming they are at fault for tempting their assaulter, need to be silenced. You, the one whose first instinct when a woman says she was raped is to say, “Well, where’s the proof?!” need to be silenced.
Sit down. Shut up. Let her speak.