I woke up this morning to Brock Turner trending on social media again. Unfortunately no, he’s not been imprisoned, but this has to be one of the next best things. His picture shows up next to the definition of rape in a criminology textbook, proving yet again, that society hasn’t forgotten the injustice from this case.
Still, I read a comment on Facebook from a friend of a friend who thought this was an instance of double jeopardy. He said Brock was found guilty, and though he admitted that Brock should’ve received a heavier sentence, he said that at this point it was time to let Brock “move on” with his life. That we need to think about restorative rather than retributive justice.
As someone who’s studied criminology at a college level, I understand that our criminal justice system is badly in need of an overhaul and I’m fully aware of the nuances that it entails. I believe in restorative justice and for non-violent crimes, I am a huge proponent of this method. Perhaps I’m biased (okay, I KNOW, I’m biased) but rapists, murders, those who commit violent crimes against other people, do not deserve to be in the same society as the rest of us.
That is why we have a prison system, to begin with–we take people out of society that pose danger to society. And while Brock Turner may never rape someone again and thus may not, in theory, pose a danger to society, there are certain crimes that are beyond restoration and that do call for retribution. An “eye for an eye” doesn’t work all the time, but in some cases a life for a life is moral and in the case of Brock Turner and other rapists, retribution is completely justifiable.
Oh did you read a life for a life and think that only applies to murder? That living rape victims and survivors are, well, living so a life for a life doesn’t apply?
Let me explain why you are wrong.
Brock Turner’s victim, she received a life sentence the night Brock chose to forcibly violate her unconscious body next to a garbage can. She received a life sentence called being a victim/survivor. She didn’t get to make that choice for herself, she didn’t want the label, and she would gladly do almost anything to change the course of that night.
You ask me how I know? I mean I don’t know her personally, I don’t even know her name. If I saw her on the street one day, I wouldn’t recognize her and she wouldn’t recognize me. But I know her. Or at least I know her enough because we are part of the same club. We are part of the club of people who received the same life sentence. A club none of us were given a choice to be in and all of us want out of.
I don’t know what her sentence includes specifically. For me, my life sentence includes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder something I’ve spoken freely about but perhaps not enough.
I have nightmares (really it’s just one nightmare because it’s always the same one) where my throat gets slashed. I have flashbacks where I can literally feel everything happening to me again. I have limited trust in others, I’m hypervigilant. I avoid places like the plague that bring on painful memories, places that weren’t even originally associated with my assault but have somehow become associated with it.
There are days when I feel unworthy of love and happiness. There are days I have spent in bed, not getting up to do anything even important things. There are days when I am so angry, I can feel the heat rising up in my shaking body and I can’t speak. There are days when I put on a brave face and speak and people tell me I’m strong, but I am terrified.
And there are days when I’m perfectly fine, or at least as perfectly fine as I will ever be; because remember, I am serving a life sentence and I will never be who I was before I was given that sentence and thus what is perfectly fine for me has changed since I was raped.
So when I speak about rapists giving a life for a life I don’t speak of them dying (not necessarily anyway), I speak about them receiving a life sentence in exchange for the ones they give us–the victims and survivors of their actions and choices.
If there is one case that simultaneously showed everything wrong with our legal system and yet still gives me hope for fellow members of the life sentence club, it has got to be the Brock Turner case.
On the one hand, he was actually found guilty and sentenced, so there was some justice for the victim in that. On the other hand, he only got six months for sexual assault, which with good behavior turned into three. That is a travesty of justice.
But while the justice system may not have been just, the Brock Turner case showed a shift in society from victim blaming and shaming to turning on the rapist and placing the blame and shame on him where it should be.
I’ve never seen more people outraged over sexual assault and the injustice victims face daily. I’ve never seen such an outpouring of support for a victim, and such a strong stand and outcasting of a rapist.
And though it’s been a while, society hasn’t forgotten. His name will forever be associated with what he’s done and that is a beautiful thing in a society that so often forgets or just doesn’t care.
Brock Turner may have received a sentence of six months in jail, and he may have only served half that, but if he couldn’t be given life in a court of law, then at least he’s being given life in the court of public opinion.
And that is justice exemplified.