An open letter to my older sons, in light of recent current events:
Dear Tyler, Jack, Charlie and Sam–
Some of you may have heard about the Stanford rape case in the news lately. If not, here’s the overview: In January 2015, a 20-year old Stanford athlete (swimmer) met up with a young woman at a party, and at some point of the evening he decided to sexually assault her. Yes, there was alcohol involved, on both parts. She was drunk enough to pass out, and he took her outside, behind a garbage dumpster and raped her. During the act, two other students approached on bicycles, and noticed something wasn’t quite right with the situation. They confronted the young man — Brock Turner is his name — at which point he tried to run away. They tackled him and held him until the police arrived.
Last week, he was convicted of the crime, which ordinarily would warrant something like a 15-year prison sentence. Astonishingly, the judge sentenced him to just six months in prison, with the likelihood that he’ll actually serve just three of those six months.
After the sentence was handed down, Brock Turner’s father penned a letter, basically belittling the crime, referring to it as “20 minutes of action,” and how that didn’t warrant ruining Brock’s future.
Needless to say, people are shocked. Dismayed. Disappointed. Outraged.
I am among those people.
Who knows where this case will lead next,… whether or not the sentence can be changed, what sort of changes will occur in the legal system because of it. But I do know that parents everywhere are bringing this story to their children, in hopes of driving home the point that sexual assault — rape — is not something to belittle. As much as Brock Turner’s father pleaded for his son’s future which was now ruined by this paltry prison sentence, he never once mentioned or even acknowledged the young woman’s future. Her future is ruined. Her future will never be the same, significantly marred by Brock’s actions as she lay unconscious. (I have both the victim’s letter and the one written by Dan Turner for you to read, so you can read their words for yourself.)
All that said, I believe you all would conduct yourselves appropriately in social situations. Just to be clear, however, here is the step-by-step procedure I expect each of you to follow, should you ever find yourself in a situation that even remotely resembles this one.
SCENE: You are at a party and you notice a young woman, alone, who may or may not be drunk. Whether you know her personally or not, here’s what you are to do:
1.) Ask her if she is OK, if she has friends with her and where they are.
2.) Help her find her friends.
3.) If she is alone, or doesn’t know where her friends are, YOU are now her friend. Your primary responsibility at this point is making sure she either gets home safely, or stays safe until morning.
4.) If she passes out, you find a safe place for her to remain. Give her a pillow, a blanket and a trash can.
5.) You make sure she is safe and no one messes with her.
I want you all to note that none of these steps include taking advantage of this girl in any way, shape or form.
This isn’t new, undiscovered ground for me, as I can clearly remember partying in college. Surprised? Don’t be. My friends and I were social, and yes… there were times when someone needed to be taken care of because she’d had too much to drink. I even remember taking care of one of my male friends at his own fraternity house, because he started too fast out of the gate one Saturday night, and was a slurring, stumbling mess by 10pm. Granted, the chances of him being sexually assaulted in this situation were zero percent. However, we didn’t abandon him, saying, “He’s in his own house,… he’ll be fine. Probably.” Nope. We got him to his room, put him in his bed (made sure he stayed on his side so he wouldn’t choke if he vomited), and put a trash can next to him. We stayed and made sure he fell asleep/passed out before leaving, then we shut his door and continued our evening. At no point did we think it would be funny to degrade or humiliate him. Being drunk happens, but it isn’t an open invitation to strip someone of his or her dignity, or worse.
You are all intelligent, respectable young men with endless possibilities for future plans. Mistakenly thinking that you could/should take advantage of a girl simply because she’s unable to protest, will ruin lives forever. Plans that either of you had will probably never be realized.
These expectations I’ve listed apply to any situation — it applies to girls you know, and even those you do not. I don’t care if you encounter a complete stranger who’s falling down drunk… it doesn’t matter if you know her. She is a human being, and as such, we take care of one another. I expect all of you to adhere to that standard. We all need to watch out for each other, because there are people out there who feel entitled to have whatever they want, whenever they want it. Period. These are the most dangerous people, because when they are denied what they want, they can become violent and fight for what they feel they “deserve.” I’m no expert on what people deserve in this world, but I know for damn sure that in January 2015, an unconscious young woman didn’t deserve to be raped behind a garbage dumpster.
Always be gentlemen. Always.