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In the aftermath of the recent California rape sentencing, social media comments keep appearing by the thousands. The picture looks familiar, outraged people raising their voices against our system failing the victim, others blinded by the elitist thought that this is a sad ending for a brilliant young man who made a poor decision under the influence.
Here are some quick facts. In January 2015, a 20 year old white male was caught raping an unconscious 23-year-old woman behind a Dumpster after leaving a fraternity party at Stanford University. The man is a swimmer, with a scholarship; somehow this is supposed to make a difference. Good rapist vs. bad rapist, I guess?
Although he was caught in the act, the case ends up going to trial and the defense makes it about alcohol abuse and sexual promiscuity. The victim is put on the stand and is questioned over and over again on things she can’t remember due to the fact that she was intoxicated and in and out of consciousness.
The law clearly states that under these circumstances consent cannot be given. In March 2016, the jury finds him guilty unanimously on three felony counts of sexual assault, but last week the judge gives him a slap on the wrist sentence: six months in jail and three years of probation. The perpetrator’s father makes a statement that his son’s life has been changed forever for “20 minutes of action.” What is wrong with this picture? Everything!
My experience tells me that in our short-attention-span world, this too will soon be forgotten. After all, the history of humanity has managed to keep this crime silent for so long; the church, the military, college rape, sports coaches, celebrities; they have all had their moment in the endless cycle of sexual violence.
Or perhaps this brave woman’s heart wrenching victim statement won’t have been made in vain. Perhaps, if you read it, it will help you understand the bias our society holds around this issue; it will help you understand what a victim feels like. Just maybe, it will compel you to become involved and start a conversation with the adults and youth in your life.
Click here for the victim's impact statement.
Ivonne Zucco is the Executive Director of The Center for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling and Education, a non profit organization whose mission is to provide counseling and support to victims of sexual assault and to eliminate sexual violence through community wide education programs. Prevention presentations, counseling and advocacy are available to the public free of charge. Visit our website www.thecenter-ct.org or call our office at 203-348-9346 for more information.