"We all make choices. But in the end, our choices make us." - Andrew Ryan, Bioshock
The rape by Stanford University Student Brock Turner of an unnamed 23-year-old rape victim has become a national platform for the discussion of Justice, Law, and the right to Consent.
Two Swedish tourists caught Turner in the act raping the woman. Turner attempted to flee and was tripped by one of the Swedes, holding him until the proper authorities could book him. The girl was found ravaged, with pine needles inside her vagina.
The rape, which was perpetrated on January 18th, 2015, has recently been tried. Turner begged for leniency, blaming his actions on being led astray by what he dubbed "party culture," something he was recently initiated in at University. (This was found out to be a lie, as Turner had seriously dabbled in binge drinking and drugs, including Acid, in high school.)
The Judge, Aaron Persky, was lenient in sentencing the guilty 20-year-old after reading a statement from Turner's father. The Judge justified his decision by agreeing with Turner's father's statement which reads, in part, "[My son's life] will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20-plus years of life." He was sentenced to six months for his actions.
The Nation has been in an uproar since the verdict became public. Rational human beings are sickened by the light sentence, which normally requires jail time of at least two years, and have begun to protest. Numerous groups and individuals are calling for the disbarring of Judge Persky and a new sentencing be instated. I have signed two petitions regarding the decisions of this case, one on Change.org and one on The White House's Website, and I urge you to sign as well. (If you sign either of these petitions, comment here and share your opinions!)
Whenever I start to analyze an issue as fraught with emotion as this, I like to start at isolating the basic root or principle behind the it.
The root of this issue is one of consent. Rape is legally defined as "non-consensual sexual intercourse that is committed by physical force, threat of injury, or other duress." (criminal.findlaw.com) As you can see, lack of consent is the cornerstone of the act of rape.
Consent isn't only given in words. In this case, the victim happened to be unconscious. It is impossible for a sleeping person to give consent and the same goes for someone who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. On the other side of the coin, being drunk also isn't a free pass for raping someone. Turner claims he was drunk when he committed the rape and didn't realize what he was doing because his senses were under siege.
Turner's case has also been shining light on the idea of Class Privilege. Class privilege is the old concept that has been going on for all of recorded time - The Rich vs. The Poor. Turner and his family are affluent, able to send their son to Stanford and hire the best lawyers money could buy to represent him. Many see his family's privilege as having "bought" his light verdict. I happen to agree with that analysis. Turner's Father's statement and the Judge's verdict can be seen as a meeting of "The Old Boy's Club," making backroom deals and friends helping friends get away with a crime.
Justice should never be able to be bought. Justice should be blind to gender, race, and class. If we can't find judges who can get passed bias, how are we ever supposed to get a fair trial? Judge Persky doesn't want a long jail sentence to destroy Turner's life. But the ironic thing is the backlash that this verdict has caused have stirred more hatred and contempt for both Turner and The Judge than if he had issued a heavier sentence. Turner will never be able to live a normal life with the justified stigma of this crime hanging over his head. At the very basic level he will always be labeled a Sex Offender.
The main thing that should be taken from this unfortunate turn of events is that consent is holy gospel. The right to choose and consent are the cornerstones of the free will that we all value more than anything. If we didn't have the axiomatic guarantees, we would be living in a cesspool of unjustified and irrational action.
My idea to better educate about to consent is to Canonize it. Canonization is defined as to "regard as being above reproach or [be] of great significance." (Merriam Webster) To teach the Canonization of Consent at a young age in school would provide a cornerstone for learning about free will and justified action. Teaching kids that the right to consent should never be questioned or violated will impart to them the seriousness of their actions and place the duty of morality into their minds in their most formative years. We need to draft an official addition to the curriculum of all schools, big or small, and teach this issue to children as their minds are beginning to develop and be shaped.
Every virtue we learn at a young age is one we have more of a chance of embracing as we grow. The virture of consent is not one that is pressed, it is merely assumed that kids will learn about it on their own. We cannot allow ourselves to become complacent in hoping every child will learn to honor consent without our help.
The Stanford Rape case is a chance four us to get back to basics, educating the world on the individual's right to their own body and holding the word "No" as strictly inviolate. No more "the alcohol made me do it." No more "she was asking for it with her eyes." No more "I didn't know what I was doing."
No more excuses.