It’s Okay if You Never Want to Look at Rapist Brock Turner’s Face Ever Again

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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.

5 Ways YOU can fight Rape Culture

1.) Arm Yourself (With Knowledge)

As frustrating as the statistics surrounding these issues can be (ex: Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted) they are important to be aware of. Spend a minute on RAINN’s statistics page and there is absolutely no denying what an extreme problem we are facing. Spend another minute reading this list of 50 Rape Facts from the Huffington Post, and you won’t want to live on this planet anymore.

Understanding Rape Culture is the first step to being proactive against it.

2.) Arm Yourself (With Karate)

If you read the WikiHow page for “Preventing a Potential Rape” more than half of the 25 suggestions involve altering one’s day to day life in some way or another. If we were to follow those rules, we would all be wandering in herds, wearing gender-neutral onesies, shaving our heads, and having half a sip of the drink we just paid $10.00 for. And that, is my biggest problem: people view rape as something that is to be prevented by the woman, and not her attacker. We still live in a “she was asking for it” world, and unless we act against this, nothing will ever change. It’s time for a new front where women feel at liberty to dress and act in a way that makes them happiest, without an omnipresent potential threat.

Instead, it is women who should be the threat. Two of my favorite YouTube videos come from a channel called “Final Round Training” and demonstrate techniques on escaping and attacking in rape and sexual assault situations. Check them out HERE and HERE.

I also highly recommend WomenOnGuard.com. They’re essentially a women’s self-defense superstore where you can buy personal alarms, pepper spray, tasers etc. My personal favorite is the lipstick-shaped stun gun. The retailer also provides excellent, clear information on the use of each and every product.

In sum: A woman is not to be messed with.

3.) Share Resources

Not everyone is open or comfortable when talking about rape. We need to take it upon ourselves to educate the people in our lives and make sure they can have a dialog about this topic.

With friends, talk about how living in a world where Rape Culture exists has affected you. Talk about how you can have each other’s backs when you are out for a night or even just day to day.

With family, talk to the older generations about what the values and culture they were raised with and how that has impacted their treatment of women and the issue of rape. Talk to the younger generation about how mutual respect is always essential and how they can grow into people who fight against these crimes.

With partners, practice open consent, establish boundaries, use a safe word, and most importantly, never be afraid to say “no” or report something that went to far.

Why not start today by sending someone you care about one of these links? I guarantee you’ll end up having an important conversation.

Anti-Rape Activism

FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture

How Can We Fight Rape?

I Know I Can Fight Rape Culture By…

Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR)

Project Unbreakable

4.) Speak Up!

If you see something, say something!

As a society, we usually just shrug these things off and decide to mind our own business. But why don’t we look out for each other a little bit more? Maybe everything is fine, maybe you did just get the wrong idea, but whatever small shred of discomfort you feel by asking “Is everything okay?” is not nearly worth the potential of a life changed forever.

5.) Disregard Everything Else and Live by THESE RULES: