An Open Letter to My Teenage Boys About Brock Turner and Rape Culture

What I hope my teenage boys will understand about rape culture in light of the Brock Turner conviction and sentencing.

Hey guys,

We need to have a talk about something serious. Something that’s on my heart as your dad, but it’s going to be uncomfortable for you. I want to let you know that up front. And that’s OK; sometimes we need to have uncomfortable talks.

It’s about rape.

There’s a news story going around about a college student, his name is Brock, and he actually grew up right down the street from our house. He got accepted into a prestigious college in California, and he was an Olympic hopeful in swimming.

But Brock made a terrible decision. And, I’m confident that it wasn’t just one decision, but a million tiny decisions and thoughts, over a lifetime, that contributed to this recent tragic decision.

Brock Turner Dad
RAHIM ULLAH, The Stanford Daily

One night, after a college party, with drinking involved, he saw a defenseless girl, and when no one was around, he took her pants off, including her underwear, and he had sex with her against her will. This is called rape. It’s violent. It’s wicked. It’s tragic. And the consequences for the victim of rape are so hard to describe in words.

The victim, the girl, wrote a letter to the judge and to her attacker and I want to read you a few words from it–so you’ll know the depth of the pain and hurt, to some degree. In this account, she shares what it was like to wake up in the hospital after the rape.

“The next thing I remember I was in a gurney in a hallway. I had dried blood and bandages on the backs of my hands and elbow. I thought maybe I had fallen and was in an admin office on campus. I was very calm and wondering where my sister was. A deputy explained I had been assaulted. I still remained calm, assured he was speaking to the wrong person. I knew no one at this party. When I was finally allowed to use the restroom, I pulled down the hospital pants they had given me, went to pull down my underwear, and felt nothing. I still remember the feeling of my hands touching my skin and grabbing nothing. I looked down and there was nothing. The thin piece of fabric, the only thing between my vagina and anything else, was missing and everything inside me was silenced. I still don’t have words for that feeling. In order to keep breathing, I thought maybe the policemen used scissors to cut them off for evidence.

Then, I felt pine needles scratching the back of my neck and started pulling them out my hair. I thought maybe, the pine needles had fallen from a tree onto my head. My brain was talking my gut into not collapsing. Because my gut was saying, help me, help me.

I shuffled from room to room with a blanket wrapped around me, pine needles trailing behind me, I left a little pile in every room I sat in. I was asked to sign papers that said “Rape Victim” and I thought something has really happened. My clothes were confiscated and I stood naked while the nurses held a ruler to various abrasions on my body and photographed them. The three of us worked to comb the pine needles out of my hair, six hands to fill one paper bag. To calm me down, they said it’s just the flora and fauna, flora and fauna. I had multiple swabs inserted into my vagina and anus, needles for shots, pills, had a Nikon pointed right into my spread legs. I had long, pointed beaks inside me and had my vagina smeared with cold, blue paint to check for abrasions.

After a few hours of this, they let me shower. I stood there examining my body beneath the stream of water and decided, I don’t want my body anymore. I was terrified of it, I didn’t know what had been in it, if it had been contaminated, who had touched it. I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else.”

The young man who raped her stole so much from her that night. What he did was evil and wrong. But here’s where it gets even worse.

In court, he didn’t acknowledge what he did, but minimized it.

And so did his dad.

And so did the judge.

Why? Because the young man, the father, and the judge failed to look at the victim and looked only to a promising young boy who had a life ahead of him. This is called white privilege. And it’s unjust. Because of this, his consequences were minimal. He will probably only serve three-to-four months out of a six-month jail sentence when he should’ve received years.

This breaks my heart. And I believe it breaks God’s heart too. Not that God doesn’t care for both the victim and the perpetrator, but because anytime the privileged take advantage of the weak it’s called injustice. And injustice is sin–something God talks a lot about in the Bible. In fact, one of the most powerful things Jesus did was to give a voice to the voiceless and stand up for the weak, poor and oppressed–pointing them to the fact that God was for them.

So, as a father, I want to share a few things with you about this ugly and unjust story. A few lessons I think that are important to pass on.

1. Uphold the dignity of women at all costs.

God calls you to treat women as sisters. Whenever you see a woman (or any human being) mistreated–or demeaned, you should stand up and take action. In the locker room. In school. In church. And even in this house. Rape culture doesn’t start at rape. Rape culture starts with “harmless” jokes and innuendos. If we want to stop rape culture, this is where we start. We start with the commitment in our own hearts to treat women with the greatest dignity possible.

2. Never Minimize Sin.

If you ever, God forbid, do something as wicked as rape, I will not minimize your sin to get you lesser time in prison. You need to know this now. I don’t expect that you will ever do anything horrible like this, but in the slim, tiny chance, know that I will love you and stand by your side as a father, but, I will not manipulate the circumstances to make rape look like a fender-bender or a light infraction of the law. And I will not allow you to do this either. Minimizing and deflecting are classic moves we use as sinners to make ourselves feel better about our own wickedness. But God still sees. God isn’t fooled. Never forget this.

3. Leaders will let you down.

Now to the judge. The judge’s job is to rule and pass down punishment, but the punishment didn’t fit the crime. This is another form of injustice, and it’s called prejudice, or you could call it favoritism. I don’t know why the judge saw this case and decided to be so lenient, but I do know it’s a tragedy, and it gives a message to our culture that rape is like a petty crime–annoying, but not THAT bad. But it is that bad. Sometimes leaders let us down. This is a sad truth, but I want you to understand, and be aware, of this reality now. The Bible says God appoints our leaders, but that doesn’t mean they are always good leaders or that they make wise decisions in every case. And it’s OK to speak out against their decisions when they are unjust.

4. You are warriors.

I didn’t mention it yet, but there were two Swedish grad students riding bikes who saw Brock on top of his victim behind some dumpsters. When they saw Brock he ran. These grad students tackled him and held him down until police arrived. When the police made it to the scene, the rescuers were in tears from what they saw. This is who you are. You are the tacklers. You are the justice fighters. You are the warriors. This is your role. God wants to use you to stop wickedness in its tracks, to tackle the fleeing criminal and to cry over the deep injustice. I don’t advocate violence, but if you ever see a woman being forced to do something against her will–you have my blessing to throat punch in the name of God.

Those are the things I want you to understand. I know this isn’t an easy conversation, but it’s an important one and I hope you take it to heart.

Sincerely,

Dad

Brian Orme
Brian is a writer, editor and street taco connoisseur. He lives in Ohio with his wife, Jenna, their four boys: Noah, Sam, Ethan and Sol; and a crazy goldendoodle they call Lola.

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