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Jun 04 2016
by Mia Renee Cole

The Stanford Victim's Letter to Her Attacker is a Powerful Message About Campus Rape

By Mia Renee Cole - Jun 04 2016
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As US News reports, 15 percent of women are raped during their freshman year of college while incapacitated by drugs or alcohol. A study of sexual assaults at nine different colleges found that 25 percent of female seniors have experienced some sort of sexual assault. And, the powerful documentary, The Hunting Ground, highlights the high percentage of sexual assaults on college campuses that go unpunished and overlooked. With the overwhelming amount of sexual assaults happening on college campuses nationwide, it's surprising to still see attackers committing a felony--rape--and receiving little to no consequence for their actions. This is the case for a 23-year-old victim, raped while unconscious by a then 19-year-old Stanford University student.

After being convicted on three counts of sexual assault and facing up to 14 years in a state prison, the attacker--Brock Allen Turner--received only six months in county jail and probation. Outraged when finding out about her attacker's "gentle" sentence, the woman read a letter to Turner in court beginning, "You don't know me, but you've been inside me, and that's why we're here today."

"You don't know me, but you've been inside me, and that's why we're here today."

Her letter, which can be read in full on Buzzfeed, explains her struggle with finding out she was raped, how she was raped and dealing with the year-long trial against Turner. She told her story: she'd decided to go with her younger sister to a college party where she drank too much and, eventually, blacked out. The next morning she woke up, in a gurney in the hallway of a hospital, where she was informed that she had been assaulted while the doctors and nurses took samples from her vagina and anus, photographed her bruises and marks and encouraged her to get another HIV test performed in the coming weeks. She was never told the details of her rape but, instead, read about them in the newspaper while at work.

"I learned what happened to me at the same time everyone else in the world learned what happened to me."

She continued to explain her struggle with discovering how her assault had happened, and how she didn't remember any of it. She illustrated her struggle with sleeping at night, staying alone and maintaining a regular life; she was only able to sleep during the light of the day, needed someone by her side at all times and had to leave work, becoming a recluse in her own home.

Her struggle with the trial was also highlighted: the dramatic change in Turner's story, her lack of recovery from the incident, the questions she was asked about what she drank, what she was wearing, what she remembered. The illustrations by Turner's attorney made her out to be a reckless party girl, a feisty girlfriend looking for sex with a different man and a consensual sex partner in the mere fact that she couldn't remember giving consent, because she was intoxicated. 

"I read that according to him, I liked it. I liked it. Again, I do not have words for these feelings."

Regardless of these statements, her attorney insisted that she was too drunk to speak and that, had the sex been consensual, it wouldn't have hastily happened behind a dumpster and Turner wouldn't have run when two biking students discovered him penetrating her still body. The jury convicted Brock Turner on three counts of sexual assault, but the judge only sentenced him with up to six months in jail. In her letter, the victim attributed this to Turner's high social status and large swimming scholarship with Stanford that had put him in the running for the Olympics. 

"[What he did to me] stays with me, it's party of my identity, it has forever changed the way I carry myself, the way I live the rest of my life."

Since then, Turner dropped his scholarship and dropped out of Stanford while his victim still struggles with the fact that he never accepted his actions. He attributed them to being drunk. He claimed that his life was the one ruined. He never admitted to sexually assaulting her, even though he ran from her limp body when two men discovered him behind a dumpster. The woman ended her letter by saying, "He is a lifetime sex registrant. That doesn't expire. Just like what he did to me doesn't expire, doesn't just go away after a set number of years. It stays with me, it's a part of my identity, it has forever changed the way I carry myself, the way I live the rest of my life."

To read her full statement, click here. If you have experienced sexual assault, call (800) 656-4673 or visit this website.

Lead Image Credit: Mia Renee Cole via picfont.com


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Mia Renee Cole - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Mia Renee is currently the Senior Editor with Fresh U and a student at UNC Chapel Hill, where she is studying Spanish and French. In her free time she enjoys knitting, photography and drinking hot tea while writing on her personal blog. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @miareneecole or her blog at miareneecole.com!

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