It has been the summer of Brock Turner. These already sticky months have been populated by grainy images of his wild-eyed mugshot, gruesome first-person accounts of his rape of a fellow Stanford University student, and social media feuds debating whether or not rape culture is a “real thing.”
Now, just three months later, Turner is in the news again—this time as a free man. After serving mere weeks of his meager six-month sentence, Brock Turner will be released on Friday, following reports of “good behavior.”
Though Turner may be freed of his orange jumpsuit and bunkmates, his reputation will follow. The media at large has been critical of Turner, as well as Aaron Persky, the judge who oversaw his trial. The widespread, anti-Turner outcry has proven that there are pockets of half-decent people across the country, willing to speak out against this “nice young man.”
Despite these slight positives emerging from what is quite literally a steaming garbage pile of a situation, the backlash against Turner has its own pitfalls. Often, these pitfalls emerge among the fiercest and most passionate critics of Turner and the campus rape culture that allows men like him to exist.
Networks like Tumblr and Twitter are flooded with hundreds of messages citing disgust, anger, and frustration regarding Turner’s early release. Many of these messages are accompanied by images, information, and language that may be triggering for survivors of rape and sexual assault. Indeed, the story of Brock Turner places a heavy emotional burden on everyone, but it is a burden that weighs twice as much for those who are currently surviving rape and sexual assault. This powerful burden often goes unconsidered, or worse, exploited.
There is prevailing mindset that says, “if you have been a victim, now is your time to speak out!” with more regard for bringing Turner supporters to their knees than for the individual’s own experience. An individual should never feel pressured to divulge their experiences, particularly in light of such a public situation. While there has been a rallying cry against Turner, the culture at-large continues to damn survivors every day. Though sharing stories and contributing thoughts can help strengthen a movement, it is more important for the movement to take care of its own before it takes care of itself as a whole.
Despite what some virulent Twitter users may say, shutting the Brock Turner story out of your life doesn’t make you a “bad feminist” or “useless ally” in the fight against rape culture. It makes you someone who cares about your own well-being more than crafting an enraged status update. As a survivor, it is okay to make self-care your main priority, but it is a shame that this doesn’t go without saying.
There is so much to be done in the fight against the culture that fosters rape and sexual assault. Survivors and their allies all have key roles to play and ideas that can foster real change. But the strength of a movement comes from within, and that strength can only be at its most powerful when there is solidarity, trust, and respect among the internal network.
Brock Turner is not worth exhausting yourself over. He is not worth your tears or your pain. He is not worth bitterly discussing in the comments section of a Facebook post your great aunt made. He is not worth pressuring yourself or survivors into confessional mode. He is worth nothing.