Monday, June 6, 2016

Dear Mr. Turner, A letter of response

Dear Mr. Turner,

I have read the letter that you wrote the judge pleading that your son’s punishment for rape is too harsh.  After all, he’s not a violent person, he has a great smile, and he likes steak.

First, I am very sorry that your son’s life has been forever changed by his actions.  Let me repeat, his actions.  All actions have a consequence sir, both good and bad, and when you break the law you have to face the music.  I’m sorry he is struggling with anxiety and doesn’t like his favorite foods any longer.  I’m sorry that his choice to rape an unconscious woman for his “20 minutes of action” has caused him stress, and has caused you to throw a fit like a pompous little baby.

Let me ask you a question?  Where is your concern for the victim in this case?  

Does he barely consume food except to exist because his punishment is too harsh, or do you think that he is ashamed of his actions?  Are you ashamed of his actions?  Should we pat him on the back for what he’s done, or should we finally draw a line in the sand and say rape is rape.  Would you be writing the same note if a man raped your unconscious son?  After all, it’s just 20 minutes of action.  What if it was your wife?

Yes, his life is forever changed, as it should be.  He should have been given boundaries and values from day 1 and been taught that he’s not worth more than anyone else, and to treat humans with the same respect and dignity he would want to be treated with. 

Where did he learn that it was okay to take what he wanted from another person without thinking about the effects on them sir?

Let me tell you what changes for a sexual assault victim:

Embarrassment is the first thing that grips you, and it grips your heart tight.  Fear of having to say that you weren’t strong enough or smart enough to fend off an attack isn’t far behind.  Fear of retaliation, fear of being made a fool in the court room by being asked what you were wearing, how much you had to drink, or the famous, “Are you sure you didn’t at least nod your head a little?”
Next comes mental illness.  Mental illness affects every aspect of your entire life.  Anxiety and depression take over you like a bird in an oil spill.  Why?  Because the one thing you were supposed to choose who you shared with has been taken. 

Have you ever been forced into something that you couldn’t stop, sir?

Fear of disease or pregnancy intertwine with the aching pit in your stomach that never goes away because you know that YOU will be left with the consequences of what to do if rape has created another human.  YOU will have to face the hard choices and live with the aftermath of them.  You either terminate and deal with the stigma of abortion, give the child up because you aren’t sure you can handle it, or you bring a life into this world unprepared, unplanned, and painfully real.
What would you choose, sir?

Then there’s picking gravel out of your back as the blood runs down your body turning the shower water a disgusting shade of pinkish red while your face aches from the cut in your lip.  Under the hottest possible water, you try to scrub off the smell of his breath that will never go away and will haunt your dreams for the rest of your life, and the deepest sadness overcomes you as you drop to the ground and sob until you realize the water is ice cold.

You feel so stupid. 

His laugh.  His hands.  His words.  His grunts.  The smell.  The pushing.  The pain.  The mess. Being alone.  Being unsafe.  Those will.never.go.away.  Forever there will be triggers that take you right back to that moment you realized there was no amount of fighting that would change what was going to happen.  That moment when you realized that fighting back would only make things more bloody because we live in such a rape culture that we were never taught to fight back and fight back dirty. 

Hate.  Hating your rapist, hating yourself, hating everyone around you for not understanding, and the cold vulnerability of the emergency room as a doctor with no victim specific language tries his best to take a rape kit without scaring you or making you feel worse than you already do.

Pitty.  Pathetic pitty from everyone who finds out.  Hearing, “I’m sorry.” Over and over again because nobody knows what else to say when they realize what happened.

Loss of the relationship you were in because they aren’t equipped to help you navigate through the chasm of trauma.  The people you love drift away because you’re too ashamed to continue, or you push them away because you can’t handle the burden you place on them.

PTSD from rape lasts forever.  You try anything to get rid of the memories, but they will always remain.  Every time you look at your forever changed face and that scar on your lip.  Even though it healed pretty well, it’s always there, along with the scars in your back constantly reminding you of the scars on your soul.

Then comes the worthlessness.  How can anyone want me after that?  I’m damaged.  Labels like soiled, dirty, disgusting, worthless, and whore swirl around you.  The uncontrollable crying never stops, so you quit going places because you’re tired of coming up with excuses. 

Food?  Forget food.  Or maybe don’t, maybe eat so much that you gain a ton of weight so no one will ever see you as attractive again.  Oh God, what have you done?  Throw that up.  And you do.

Sleep?  Forget sleep.  Forget anything that makes you feel like you might not have control, and there is nothing like a little sleep paralysis to take away your control.

When you feel like there is no one left, you just want it to end.  You spend days just staring into nothing while it eats away at your heart.

Years of therapy just prove to you that you’re not ever going to be okay, and you believe it.  Because of this belief,  you continue to find yourself in sticky situations and the spiral goes nowhere but down into a series of bad choices and dangerous situations.  You begin over time to believe that it is your lot in life to be surrounded by people who hurt you.

All of this combined is called shame.  Shame and guilt stop you in your tracks.  They stop you from living.  They keep you sitting in your adversity.  

I know, first hand because this is me.  My scars are both visible and invisible.  I am reminded every day when I look in the mirror and every night when the lights go off.

So no, Mr. Turner, when your son decided to stick part of his body into an unconscious girl, he has to live with the consequences, and as far as I’m concerned, rapists get off way too easy because what they steal from their victims is far worse than a little jail time and having to register as a sex offender. 

I hope that your son sees how big his mistake was, and I hope he uses this as an opportunity to create awareness and help end the rape culture we currently have to survive in every day. 

Fortunately for me, I have healed.  Not completely, because my soul will never be the same, but I know I’ll be okay.  The career I have chosen as a Damsel in Defense Pro gives voices back to the people they’ve been stolen from and teaches women to fight.

Your son is lucky though.  He’s lucky he didn’t try to attack one of my students.  He would call for the police to take him away on his own had it been one of the Sisters of the Phoenix.

Maybe you should take a census of your own stock Mr. Turner.  Had it been my son, he would have begged for jail, because I don’t raise my children with so much self-entitlement that they can hurt another person.  I raise them with a warrior mindset to fight for themselves and those around them, and to stand up against people like your son.

Have a nice day Mr. Turner.  I know none of this matters to you, but to a Phoenix, it matters a lot.  If you're not sure what a Phoenix is, you should look it up.  We rise from the ashes of our old lives every day, and it is our mission to shine light into the darkness until rape becomes a thing of the past.  You can help us end this victim blaming rape culture, or you can put your face against us.  The choice is yours.  Good day, sir.

Sunshine O’Connor
Independent Damsel in Defense Pro

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