Yesterday I was pleased to see that my Facebook feed was unanimous, for (probably) the first time ever, in regards to the deplorable actions of Brock Turner. Together, we are disgusted by the behavior of this privileged and entitled young man, the callous words of his father, and the ridiculous and thoughtless sentencing ordered by Judge Persky.
Yesterday Brock's victim transcended from victim to hero. Reading her story, knowing her words were read to a man who shifted the entirety of her life - resonated deep within my soul. Her attack and experience was not for nothing. Her strength and perseverance will echo in the minds and hearts of women around the world.
I will admit, before 9am of yesterday, I had not followed any part of the Brock Turner case. After reading the victim's testimony, I couldn't stop myself from reading and learning and finding out every detail I could get my hands on. I wanted justice for this woman. I wanted change for womankind. I was wrecked with sympathy, empathy, and endless compassion.
Her storytelling was impactful. Her voice belongs not just to herself, but truly to every single woman that I know, myself included.
I know few people who haven't found themselves recovering from a night of too much drinking. These nights should at worst result in memorable hangovers: terrible headaches, a couple moments of barfing, and token drinks sworn to never be drunk again. In 2003 I drank one too many mudslides at a "dive shop" party on a cruise ship. Here, 13 years later, I will still never again touch Kahlua or anything with Bailey's in it. THAT is what we should expect when we drink too much. A bad morning and a funny memory.
I laid in bed last night, talking to Johnny about my experience being a woman. The threat and fear that comes along with my very existence. We compared notes, and it was alarming to see how different we react to similar environments. I've never once walked in a parking garage without my key drawn, ready to fight. Never once. Isn't that crazy? I've never once appreciated the cat calls of strange men who take me in as something they are allowed to devour with their eyes. I've never ignored my gut feeling, even though it has lead me to respond in ways that sometimes make me feel crazy. (Once, I drove around aimlessly for an hour, both kids in tow, after a man at a grocery store stared me down in the scariest of ways. My ice cream melted in my backseat, but I was simply too terrified to drive to my house, fearful that he would follow me.) Last week my husband was out of town, and I went out to eat with my best friend. The waiter crossed my comfort boundaries - he hugged me, and he flirted with me, even after I explained I was married and pregnant with my third child. I could hardly sleep that night because I was worried that maybe he had followed me home? I don't enter public bathrooms without taking careful observation of my surroundings and the people in them. I lock my car doors the moment I get in. I never have gone running on a nature trail alone, or in the dark. I don't even answer my own front door (unless I am expecting visitors, of course). I have been conditioned to believe that stranger does in fact equal danger. I wonder if for men, this is a baffling reality to understand. I'm not weird. I'm not even paranoid. I'm just careful and aware. Is it not entirely depressing to think that most women that you know, if not all women that you know, are conditioned to be afraid so often?
I have never been sexually assaulted. I was very close one time, and thankfully my endorphins kicked in before the fear overtook me - I was able to escape a horrifying moment. But I have more friends than fingers who were unable to escape such moments. And that's just the friends that have shared their stories with me.
I want to be clear that I do not think men are inherently evil. I don't shiver when I see men, or view all men as predators. The problem is that there are predators amongst us, and I've been taught over the years that I can't tell the good guys from the bad. I just have to be careful.
My plan for the future is simple: I will arm my daughters with the knowledge of how to protect and prevent. I will pray they never encounter danger, and I will share every single thing I've ever learned on how to best arm themselves against this world. And to my bright beautiful son: I will talk. Not only will I, but I have. Just yesterday. I shared this story with him. We talked about rape. We talked about permission. We talked about respect. Sure, at times he was a bit squeamish. We've had sex talks in the past, but the word "sex" and the word "rape" make his eyes roll around. But I took this story as an opportunity to teach my son what not to do. He's 9, and while I wrestled with the worry of him being too young to understand, well - he wasn't. It is better we talk to our children, even when it's uncomfortable, and make sure we shape them to do better, to know better.
To every single woman who has endured the pain of sexual assault. I am with you. I stand behind you, in your silence or in your fight. What you wear, what your drink, or how you've behaved in the past is never a free pass for anyone to take anything from you that you aren't willing to give. I refuse to buy into any part of rape culture. Anything that isn't a yes, means no. Forever. And always.