With a little more than three weeks left until the New Year, it wouldn’t be difficult to create an argument as to why 2016 was one of the worst years on record. The residents of Flint, Michigan were flooded (no pun intended) with contaminated water, while the nation proved that racism and xenophobia reign supreme, hence our president-elect.
The death of Alton Sterling added more salt in the wounds of countless activists trying their best to end the unjustified killing of black and brown American citizens, only for that wound to be ripped open even more a day later with Philando Castile’s public execution via Facebook’s live stream. Oh, and remember Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte? The 32-year-old “kid”—as former Today Show host Billy Bush referred to him as—went to Rio de Janeiro to compete and claimed to be held up at gunpoint by a few locals, only for Americans to later learn he lied about the entire ordeal. His punishment? A 10-month suspension bandaged with a sweet gig on Dancing With The Stars, because white privilege is always the new black.
There were many eyesores, heartaches, headaches and moments worthy of real life SMHs (Neiman Marcus’ $66 gentrified collard greens actually sold out), yet it was the high profile verdicts of convicted rapists and the judge’s justification that proved just how archaic a society America and some parts of the world truly are. It should be noted the author of this piece has endured sexual assault, so if you’re reading this with the hope an objective story will be written, leave now. My first instinct is to cape for women, and I damn sure cape for women who have endured and survived any sexual abuse so if you don’t like it, go suck a thumb.
Dan Turner, father to disgraced Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner, begged Judge Aaron Persky to show leniency to little Brock, who had been found guilty of raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. With all his faculties in proper order, the eldest Turner understood his son was a convicted rapist, yet still had the gall to ask the judge to forgo the six year sentence prosecutors requested because “that is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus year of life.”
In Turner’s viral letter, he referred to the rape as the “incident” but through hindsight alleges his son found it difficult to find the balance between his studies, swimming and the social atmosphere at the Ivy League school, which in his father’s eyes were the bread crumbs that led to the “incident” in question.
Brock was nearly-distraught knowing that he had to return early from Christmas break for swimming training camp…looking back at Brock’s brief experience at Stanford, I honestly don’t believe it was the best fit for him. He was ready academically and athletically, but it was simply too far from home for someone who was born and raised in the Midwest. He needed the support structure of being closer to family and friends.
College is the first time a lot of teens are away from home for the first time, and (wait for it, because this second part may be considered controversial) yet, they still don’t rape other students.
The tone deaf, emotionally vacant and morally corrupt request was surprisingly met by Judge Persky, a Stanford alum, who put the welfare of every woman Turner may come across on the back burner by only sentencing the sandy-blond-hair blue-eyed athlete to six months in prison. “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others,” Persky said. Turner was released after only serving three months from a California prison on Sept. 2, 2016, just in time for the new season of How To Get Away With Murder, which is ironically so fitting for little Brock and the punishment he escaped.
Eighteen-year-old David Becker didn’t make as many headlines as his cowardly cohort Brock Turner, but the case is equally infuriating.
The East Longmeadow, Massachusetts athlete went to a house party in April 2016 when two women went upstairs to go to sleep. According to WWLP.com, one of the victims, after having several cocktails and on shot of Vodka, awoke to find her pants had been pulled down and Becker jammed his fingers into her vagina. A second victim spoke with the news outlet and said she felt Becker touching her breast and he also placed his fingers inside her. Both women say they didn’t give Becker consent.
Becker was charged with two counts of rape, and one count of indecent assault and battery. Becker pleaded to two counts of indecent assault and battery of a person older than 14. The district attorney asked for two years jail time (which is still a slap in the face for the victims, even if Becker used his fingers instead of his penis), but Palmer District Court Judge Thomas Estes gave him no time behind bars and sentenced him to two years probation. During his probationary period he must stay away from drugs and alcohol as well as the two women he assaulted. If he follows orders, he won’t have to place his name on the sex offenders registry list and the charges will be dropped from his record…like it never happened.
“We all made mistakes when we were 17, 18, 19 years old, and we shouldn’t be branded for life with a felony offense and branded a sex offender,” Becker’s attorney Thomas Rooke said.
So to any parents in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, if your daughter, granddaughter, sister or niece brings home David Becker, a really dreamy guy she met at a party, congratulations, you played yaself.
Austin James Wilkerson
Austin James Wilkerson, a former University of Colorado student, may be the scariest of the three because Mr. Wilkerson‘s method of attack was under the guise of friendship. In March of 2014, Wilkerson brought the intoxicated victim back to his off-campus apartment. Wilkerson knew the victim from high school and told her friends he would care for her. According to CNN, Wilkerson’s roommate saw him offer the victim water and check her pulse. However, when they were alone, Wilkerson sexually assaulted the victim.
When it came time for Wilkerson to speak to investigators, he changed his story several times. He told one friend he “fingered a girl” and then “let his hands wander.” He later told authorities the woman wasn’t drunk and she engaged him “passionately” while making “pleasure sounds” as he “caressed” her vagina. Wilkerson magically found his sense of loyalty and allegedly left because he felt guilty cheating on his girlfriend.
Yet despite his manipulative and deplorable actions, Judge Patrick Butler sentenced Wilkerson to two years in jail under work release, meaning he can leave for school or work and return at night, along with 20 years of sex offender-specific intensive probation, and a lifetime sex-offender registration that he may have a chance to removed from in 20 years.
It should be noted that when one has to register as a sex offender it affects where they’re allowed to live and what jobs they’re allowed to have. While the rules may also vary from state-to-state offenders often have to take regular polygraph tests and hand over their laptops and wear a GPS monitoring bracelet for life.
However in Wilkerson’s case, just the same as Turner and Becker consideration for the perpetrator was taken into account, while the effects of a lenient punishment or the victims in general were an afterthought. Could it be that because of rape culture women are both victims and the ones responsible? In Canada, Judge Robin Camp came under fire when he asked a woman during a rape case, “Why couldn’t [you] keep [your] knees together?” He wondered why the 19-year-old victim, who was raped over a bathroom sink at a house party, didn’t “skew” her pelvis to the bottom of the sink to avoid penetration. Yet, before acquitting the rapist, he told him he and his friends must be “far more gentle with women…very careful. To protect themselves.”
So what should women do in the event they’re raped? Should women be more like 26-year-old Nevin Yildirim, who decapitated her repeat rapist and then walked into her Turkish town square holding his head? Or maybe women should all channel their inner Lorena Bobbit and cut off their attacker’s penis? Or maybe women should just stay in their homes and never leave because like author Roxane Gay said in her novel An Untamed State, girl children aren’t safe in a world with men.
Or maybe, we begin to teach men that women aren’t objects, but people. Maybe we challenge men to correct their language and hold their friends accountable whenever they use dangerous rhetoric about women whether they’re in the presence of women or in the comfort of a locker room. Because if you haven’t noticed, the word “hoe” is an umbrella term used to describe all women, not just a sexual women. (Because how dare a woman have the same sex drive as a man?)
Society must demand men place as much humanity on all women, and not just the women in their families. Maybe we stress that when a woman says no, it’s not a man’s cue to change his strategy on how he’s going to get her to do what he wants, and understand that rejection isn’t justification to call a woman a b***h, hoe, slut or, the worst of them, a Trump supporter.
Maybe, just maybe, we begin to test the countless rape kits backlogged in precincts around the country and round up these a**holes and throw them under the jail for their crimes. Maybe we realize that a man does have willpower and restraint, and an inability to keep his penis in his pants and not gain the consent of a woman isn’t the old adage “boys will be boys” but call it what it is: rape.
Maybe we could actually start respecting women. But wait, that’d be too radical, right?