OPINION: Not enough, how justice fails assault survivors

India Kirssin | Managing Editor

Men sexually abuse women all across America at a horrifyingly high rate – yet they are getting a free pass.

One of every six American women is the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Females ages 16-19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of attempted rape, rape or sexual assault. Only six out of every 1,000 suspects of sexual assault will end up in prison, according to RAINN.org.

Brock Turner, a student athlete at Stanford University, was tried for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman and found guilty. He was drunk and was caught in the act by two other students. His convictions carried a potential 14-year prison sentence. He was only sentenced to six months in jail and three years of probation. He was released for “good behavior” on September 2 after only serving three months. He is out in the world with the ability to harm again.

Actually he’s now in Xenia, Ohio, about 50 minutes from Mason, where his parents live.

During Turner’s sentencing his father, Dan Turner, wrote a letter to the judge in a pathetic attempt to help his son get off with only probation.

“His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve,” he wrote. “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.” This is what Dan Turner wrote, knowing his son was guilty.

20 minutes of action? Wow. Your child has ruined the life of another person by violating them in one of the worst ways possible, and you’re worried that his life won’t turn out the way everyone planned? If Brock Turner was that worried about his future, he would have thought about it before deciding to take advantage of a young woman.

Turner’s court case is scary enough by itself. I had hoped it was a one-time mistake, because, as a soon to be college freshmen, hoping it was a one-time mistake is a lot easier than accepting the horrifying truth. I had hoped that out of the outrage and hate and tears and questions his lack of sentencing provoked, something would click and things would change. But, of course, they didn’t.

David Becker, a Massachusetts high schooler, was accused of raping two unconscious women. He was sentenced to two years probation. No jail time, no sex offender registration, almost no consequences.

When asked about the ruling, Becker’s attorney pointed out that Becker is a three-sport athlete who wants a college experience and said, “We all make mistakes, and we shouldn’t be branded for life with a felony offense and branded a sex offender.”

Becker’s attorney basically advocated sending his client – a sex offender, whether he is registered as one or not – to college. I have a sad feeling we will hear Becker’s name in the news in the near future.

While these cases are both important and shocking, a more recent incident has hit closer to home.

Last month a former Mason student and football player was arrested for robbing a woman at knife and gunpoint at Western Michigan University (WMU). Through the media frenzy that has followed, it was revealed that he has been accused of sexual assault four times, all within Mason.

Charges were never filed. He continued to play football, run track and be a potential threat to any female students around him. Including myself. Western Michigan said they had no idea of his past charges and were given a good report of the player while recruiting him. So someone’s failure to mention these serious allegations put the women at WMU in danger. WMU admitted it was a mistake to recruit him.

I am disgusted that he was allowed to be near me and my friends. This also makes me wonder how many accused sexual predators are in our communities with the ability to be repeated offenders – and they will be repeat offenders. According to RAINN.org, 60 percent of released sexual assault perpetrators will be rearrested for another crime within five years.

All three cases highlight the leniency towards sexual predators our justice system favors tends to favor.  Even if a woman does the right thing and reports her assault, the odds that her attacker will ever be appropriately punished is nearly nonexistent. Why report if no one will help you?

According to 911rape.org, only 16 percent of all rapes are ever reported to the police by women. This number is terrifyingly low. There are a lot of reasons women do not report: shame, fear and self-blame being only a few examples. But, by allowing young men to get away with just about anything, our society has voluntarily endangered women.

I am not saying women should not report. Report sexual abuse. What I am saying is that we live in a world where a young man’s future means more than a woman’s self-worth, dignity and life. We live in a world where strong, capable women are preyed upon and quickly reduced to nothing. We live in a world where my friends and myself worry about going off to college because while we know we would do the right thing and report, that’s not enough.

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