Action Now: Stanford Survivor Letter
In a powerful letter, the survivor of the "Stanford Rape" addressed her perpetrator — explaining the deep impact his actions have had on her. Her statement is powerful, and resonates with survivors across the country:
"And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you...you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you."
We are amazed by the surge being shown for the survivor, and through her, survivors everywhere. We have developed this page as a way to harness this support and encourage action. We hope you will take the pledge to counter rape culture in your own community remembering that this case is one of many. It's on us to change the culture, to support survivors, and to hold our institutions and leaders accountable.
To survivors, we believe you, and we stand with you.
Statement about the Stanford Rape Case by EROC Director of Education, Sofie Karasek
By now, you’ve likely either read or heard of the powerful impact statement that the survivor of a sexual assault at Stanford University wrote to her perpetrator, and read to him directly during his sentencing in court. He was convicted on three felony charges, a rarity in sexual assault cases, but was sentenced to a mere six months in the county jail. Not prison. The county jail. This was, as the judge said, to prevent him from experiencing the “severe impact” of a prison sentence.
Some commentators have called this a setback for the movement against campus rape. If only that were the case — then this kind of leniency would be unusual, not the status quo. The overwhelming majority of rapes are never reported, and out of those that are, most are not prosecuted. The conviction rate for rape is the second lowest for a felony crime. This is part of why survivors often don’t report in the first place — they don’t anticipate being believed or that the perpetrator will be held accountable. This lack of support for survivors had led us to a reality in which the majority of rapists live amongst us, while the survivors in our communities live in silence.
The Stanford survivor’s letter resonated strongly across the country, and in it, themes consistent among survivor experiences: of not being believed; of the devaluation of your goals, and your existence, in comparison to the person who assaulted you; of being subjected to insulting questions; of invasive procedures.
Given the universality of her words, we wanted to expand on them.
“And then, at the bottom of the article, after I learned about the graphic details of my own sexual assault, the article listed his swimming times. She was found breathing, unresponsive with her underwear six inches away from her bare stomach curled in fetal position. By the way, he’s really good at swimming. Throw in my mile time if that’s what we’re doing. I’m good at cooking, put that in there, I think the end is where you list your extracurriculars to cancel out all the sickening things that’ve happened.”
The next time you think to yourself, “Oh, but he gets straight A’s and is captain of the team,” remember that, unfortunately, perpetrators are most commonly people who we know, and feeling entitled to the bodies of others often stems from having social capital. Just because the person does not strike you as “creepy” does not mean that they are incapable of sexual assault. Sexual assault is about power and entitlement, not sex.
“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. Again, you were not wrong for drinking. Everyone around you was not sexually assaulting me. You were wrong for doing what nobody else was doing.”
Too often, the blame for sexual assault is attributed solely to drinking. Again, the survivor articulates it perfectly when she says that the issue is not the alcohol, the issue is the rapist. If you are in your apartment drinking with friends and then one of them rapes you, it is not the wine’s fault. It is the fault of the person who raped you. Period. It would not have happened had they not committed the crime.
“Drinking culture and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that. Goes along with that, like a side effect, like fries on the side of your order. Where does promiscuity even come into play? I don’t see headlines that read, Brock Turner, Guilty of drinking too much and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that.”
The issue is that male entitlement to sex is so pervasive that it does not strike Turner as rape. His friend made this crystal clear when she said that rape is only when you are kidnapped out of a parking lot at night. This is the absolute antithesis of reality — again, most perpetrators are not strangers jumping out of the bushes at you brandishing a gun. Stranger rape does happen, but in 10 to 20 percent of cases — not one hundred.
Similarly devoid of reason is the perpetrator’s father’s assertion that it was only “20 minutes of action” and therefore does not warrant prison time. This is illogical — our judicial system does not, or at least it should not, base the length of time served on the time it took for the crime to be committed. Imagine telling the family of someone who was fatally shot that the murderer would not go to prison because it only took seconds to pull the trigger. And when a survivor requests prison time, we should take that advice seriously. Again, take the example of the person who is shot fatally. Why wouldn’t we expect the criminal system to value the wishes of the victim’s family, and to strongly consider them when determining the sentence?
“Lastly you said, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin a life. A life, one life, yours, you forgot about mine. Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.”
We are reticent to acknowledge that, in fact, perpetrators of sexual violence are usually our friends, parents, and siblings, which often makes it even more difficult for survivors to come forward. Retaliation, social ostracism, and rejection are real fears that many survivors rightfully have. We can change this, but only when we start supporting the survivors of crimes, not the people who commit them.
These are not easy truths to accept. We must reckon with the fact that sexual violence is widespread in our communities, and that many rapists are seemingly nice people that you’d probably have a beer with. If someone you know is accused of sexual violence and you don't want to take sides because you want to "remain neutral", you are directly contributing to the culture that tells survivors that rape is trivial and tells perpetrators that they are immune from punishment.
We extend our utmost gratitude to the survivor who shared her story and words with us all, and we will keep fighting for justice in honor of her and all survivors of violence.
The Stanford case is unfortunately not unique. Survivors rarely see justice for the atrocious crimes committed against them. Most, instead, face betrayal and disbelief. The Stanford Survivor letter is both a powerful testimony to the damages inflicted by sexual assault and a call to action. It's on us to counter rape culture. It's on us to make sexual assault unacceptable. It's on us to pressure our institutions to hold perpetrators accountable.
Sign the pledge below expressing your willingness to counter rape culture in your daily life. We will send you a guide on how to counter rape culture and support survivors.
We, the undersigned, pledge to challenge rape culture in our daily lives,