If you haven’t heard about the Stanford rape case that is riveting all my Progressive friends, here is a brief summary: In January 2015, the unnamed 23-year-old victim went to a party, drank, and passed out. She has no memory of what happened after that. Witnesses, however, found her half-naked and unconscious behind a Dumpster, with Brock Allen Turner atop her. They corralled Turner, a champion Stanford swimmer, and held him until police arrived.
In March 2016, Turner was convicted of three felony counts of sexual assault. The case would have vanished from most people’s radar at this point were it not for the fact that the trial court judge, Aaron Persky, a Stanford alumnus, elected to give Turner a very light sentence: six months in jail and three years probation. The Persky’s reasoning was that “[a] prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others.”
The blogosphere went insane, with people publishing Turner’s picture and not so subtly implying that, when he emerges from prison, he should be lynched. Buzzfeed (the outlet that won’t bake cakes for conservatives) went so far as to publish the statement that the victim prepared for the sentencing phase of the trial. You can read the whole thing here. It makes for sad reading because this woman has lost her sense of physical inviolability. Something bad happened to her body, even though she was unaware at the time, and she suffers greatly. I’m just going to include a portion of her statement, though:
On January 17th, 2015, it was a quiet Saturday night at home. My dad made some dinner and I sat at the table with my younger sister who was visiting for the weekend. I was working full time and it was approaching my bed time. I planned to stay at home by myself, watch some TV and read, while she went to a party with her friends. Then, I decided it was my only night with her, I had nothing better to do, so why not, there’s a dumb party ten minutes from my house, I would go, dance like a fool, and embarrass my younger sister. On the way there, I joked that undergrad guys would have braces. My sister teased me for wearing a beige cardigan to a frat party like a librarian. I called myself “big mama”, because I knew I’d be the oldest one there. I made silly faces, let my guard down, and drank liquor too fast not factoring in that my tolerance had significantly lowered since college.
One day, I was at work, scrolling through the news on my phone, and came across an article. In it, I read and learned for the first time about how I was found unconscious, with my hair disheveled, long necklace wrapped around my neck, bra pulled out of my dress, dress pulled off over my shoulders and pulled up above my waist, that I was butt naked all the way down to my boots, legs spread apart, and had been penetrated by a foreign object by someone I did not recognize. This was how I learned what happened to me, sitting at my desk reading the news at work. I learned what happened to me the same time everyone else in the world learned what happened to me. That’s when the pine needles in my hair made sense, they didn’t fall from a tree. He had taken off my underwear, his fingers had been inside of me. I don’t even know this person. I still don’t know this person. When I read about me like this, I said, this can’t be me, this can’t be me. I could not digest or accept any of this information. I could not imagine my family having to read about this online. I kept reading. In the next paragraph, I read something that I will never forgive; I read that according to him, I liked it. I liked it. Again, I do not have words for these feelings.
The night after it happened, he said he didn’t know my name, said he wouldn’t be able to identify my face in a lineup, didn’t mention any dialogue between us, no words, only dancing and kissing. Dancing is a cute term; was it snapping fingers and twirling dancing, or just bodies grinding up against each other in a crowded room? I wonder if kissing was just faces sloppily pressed up against each other? When the detective asked if he had planned on taking me back to his dorm, he said no. When the detective asked how we ended up behind the dumpster, he said he didn’t know. He admitted to kissing other girls at that party, one of whom was my own sister who pushed him away. He admitted to wanting to hook up with someone. I was the wounded antelope of the herd, completely alone and vulnerable, physically unable to fend for myself, and he chose me. Sometimes I think, if I hadn’t gone, then this never would’ve happened. But then I realized, it would have happened, just to somebody else. You were about to enter four years of access to drunk girls and parties, and if this is the foot you started off on, then it is right you did not continue. The night after it happened, he said he thought I liked it because I rubbed his back. A back rub.
Your attorney has repeatedly pointed out, well we don’t know exactly when she became unconscious. And you’re right, maybe I was still fluttering my eyes and wasn’t completely limp yet. That was never the point. I was too drunk to speak English, too drunk to consent way before I was on the ground. I should have never been touched in the first place.
Alcohol is not an excuse. 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. Everyone in this room has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much, or knows someone close to them who has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much. Regretting drinking is not the same as regretting sexual assault. We were both drunk, the difference is I did not take off your pants and underwear, touch you inappropriately, and run away. That’s the difference.
If you cut through all the “I am a victim” talk, the reality emerges: One night, there were two disgustingly drunk, incoherent people, the male half of whom ended up having sex with the female half. Everything else is speculation, although the fact that the victim had abrasions on her and dirt in her seems to indicate that he was violent and she fought, or that he was careless and it didn’t matter whether she fought or not. She felt bad, but is anonymous; he will be a pariah for the rest of his life because the Leftist blogosphere is out to get him.
I have a few things to say about this sordid event, all of which will get the PC police breathing down my neck. I’ll start with a story a former judge’s clerk told me almost thirty years ago. The person who told me had clerked for a judge down in Texas. The case didn’t involve fancy college students, but good ol’ Texas rednecks who were partying hard down on the beach one summer. One of the gals awoke from her drunken stupor to discover a man who was not her boyfriend on top of her, having intercourse with her. She cried rape; he ended up in criminal court.
The defendant didn’t get convicted, though. Although most of the attendees at this party were drunk, piecing together their testimony revealed the truth: The victim and defendant were drinking heavily. She thought he was her boyfriend, even though her boyfriend was wearing a cast at the time, which the defendant was not; and he thought she was his girlfriend because she was a willing drunken female. He was as surprised as she was when halfway through the act she suddenly started screaming rape.
My point: Paralytically drunk people, both male and female, do incredibly stupid things. Sex is a core biological function, the impulse for which is situated deep within our lizard brain. Men, when their self-control isn’t just dulled but is erased by alcohol, are going to head straight for sex. Women too will often say yes to sex when drunk even if they wouldn’t when sober. The morning after, the woman is a victim; the man is a rapist. The real culprit — overindulgence in alcohol — is politely ignored, despite the fact that it powered both of them in their conduct. Because the woman feels horrible about herself, the man must suffer too.
Of course, if the woman is unconscious from start to finish, is saying “No, no, stop, stop,” or is pushing him away from her as best as she can, we expect even the lizard-brain controlled man to stop his base instincts from taking over — and this is even if he went into the engagement thinking she was saying yes. In this case, though, the victim’s own letter makes it clear that both these people were incoherently drunk, something that means that, even if they could speak, they were probably incapable of interpreting what the other was saying or doing. Moreover, the defendant’s lawyer argued that, because the victim had blacked out and had no memory whatsoever of what happened, it was just as likely that she gave consent before passing out as it was that she didn’t consent. We don’t know — and she doesn’t know, although she sure felt violated after the fact, as much from the hospital and police experience as from the rape she didn’t remember.
Honestly, if the only evidence I heard was what’s in the victim’s letter, if I were a juror, I wouldn’t have found him guilty. I don’t think she made a case showing by a preponderance of evidence that she didn’t drunkenly consent. Given that Turner too was drunk, it’s not fair to impose upon him the ex post facto burden of having the sense to realize that she was too drunk to consent. If she was too drunk to consent, he was too drunk to figure that fact out.
My view is politically incorrect. I’m “shaming” her. I’m blaming the victim. She’s feeling awful, so he should too. The posters on the internet make that clear. Here are two examples:
Looking at those posters, I realized suddenly what was wrong with them: They’re utterly failing to consider the historic, and quite unique, victim shaming that went with rape. In the old days, when a woman cried rape, she was disbelieved on the grounds that she was “asking for it.” This is what Muslims in Germany say when they brutally assault sober women walking down the street or gathering to celebrate New Year’s outside a church: “Just be being in that place or wearing that dress, she was a whore. She was a prostitute but didn’t have the sense to ask for money. I wasn’t raping her. I just gave her what she obviously wanted and needed. Women just by being women, unless locked away, are asking for it and all men are entitled to respond to this enticement with sex, no matter her physical or verbal protests.”
That’s slut-shaming. That’s excusing your own criminal behavior by accusing the woman of a very specific, narrow fault: Enticing you into sex because she is a woman.
As I said, this kind of “blaming the victim” attitude is unique to rape. For no other crime has it ever been a defense that the victim “was asking for it.” With rape, though, women were put on sexual trial, which is a vile, awful, sexist, unfair, totally wrong thing to do.
What’s happened nowadays, though, is that we’ve gone too far in the other direction. Saying someone is at fault for getting paralytically drunk is an entirely different type of blame from saying “she asked for it.” The former blames conduct under the victim’s control; the latter blames the victim because of her sex, something over which, in a sane, non-gender crazed world, she has no control.
If Turner genuinely forced sex on an unwilling or unconscious woman, that’s a crime that’s in the books, not just one ginned up by Social Justice Warriors. Turner would then appropriately deserve to be imprisoned for a good part of his life, something that will be a useful deterrent to other young men who think forcing sex on an unwilling or unconscious woman is good sport.
We’re making a big mistake, though, to give the victim a complete pass. No matter how guilty Turner was, if the victim got too drunk to protect herself, she’s guilty too — of advanced stupidity. She doesn’t need to go to jail, of course. She’s clearly suffered enough. But by pretending that she had nothing to do with her rape, we are giving her a pass that is societally damaging.
I want my daughter and her friends to understand that if you drink too much at a party, there will be consequences. You might get sick, you might get liver damage, you might drown in your own vomit, you might cause a fatal car accident, and you might be incapable of removing yourself from a situation in which a man with whom you don’t want to have sex, whether he’s acting malevolently or because he’s as drunk as you, ends up having sex with you. Every time we give these drunk victims a pass, we disempower a whole other cohort of young women who should be learning from her example, but who are repeatedly told that they have nothing to do with their own safety and well-being.
And yes, I recognize that there are going to be shades of gray: Is a woman at fault if she walked down “X Street,” when she should have known an unsavory crowd can be found there Saturday night? Is the woman a victim when she wears a short skirt in a bar?
I’m not going to go to the shades of gray. I’m sticking with one subject: Women who get drunk to the point of becoming unconscious or blacking out. That’s a modern phenomenon and a very dangerous one. We need to stop it for our daughter’s safety and the only way to do that is to say that those women and girls who get paralytically drunk are engaging in a stunningly stupid course of conduct that puts them at extreme risk in numerous ways, including becoming a rape victim.
Sorry for being so un-PC, but it needs to be said.
UPDATE: Someone suggested to me that the fact that she was unconscious makes what he Turner did rape, without any extenuating circumstances. That is, if unconscious, she could not be consenting. Technically, that’s true, but it again ignores the fact that both were apparently drunk.
My take on the situation — again based wholely on the victim’s own letter — is that if he raped her, he raped her. Her letter, though, indicated that they were both drunk, that she was making out with him on the dance floor, and that she has no memory of how she ended up outside, behind the dumpster, under him. Now, it’s entirely possible that he was rational enough at some point to either drag her out to the dumpster or find her there and deliberately take advantage of her unconsciousness.
It’s equally likely, though, again riffing off of her letter, that both he and she drunkenly said “Let’s get out of here,” and events escalated, with the victim at some point in the following events passing out. If he was sober enough to realize she was unconscious, he absolutely should have stopped. If he was as drunk as she, though, it’s entirely possible that he didn’t notice that she had stopped moving, being entirely focused on his own actions. Drunks are not usually distinguished by good situational awareness.
Again, if he raped her, he raped her and he deserves every bit of imprisonment and condemnation possible. However, even under that black-and-white scenario regarding his conduct, the SJWs should not be allowed to pretend that the victim did not contribute to her own bad luck. Put another way, the fact that he’s guilty of the crime of rape, which is punishable by our criminal justice system, does not mean that she’s not guilty of the crime of stupidity, which is not punishable by our criminal justice system, but which should stand as a clarion warning to other young women not to do what she did.
I have a son and a daughter. I’ve pointed this story out to both of them along with the caution that if they drink to the point of acute intoxication, they have no control over where they end up, whether that’s the ER room or the jail cell.
So again: My point is that this is a morality tale that both boys and girls should learn from. The lesson isn’t just “Boys, you must not rape.” The lesson is also, “Boys and Girls, do not drink to excess because very bad things can happen and, even if you don’t engage in a criminal act, you may find yourself on the receiving end of something awful.” The feminists and SJWs, by giving women a pass on that last admonition — an admonition related to the girls’ conduct, over which they have control, rather than the mere fact that they are female, something that just is — are failing to protect women from engaging in behavior every bit as dangerous as drunk driving.
It’s ironic that we live in a culture where everyone is taught “Don’t smoke, because you might die in 40 yars,” or “Don’t eat GMOs, because who knows,” utterly refuses to admonish girls for a specific behavior with immediate awful consequences.
UPDATE II: For further thoughts, which address the question of the victim’s withdrawing consent when she passed out, please go here.