A story that has gotten a lot of news coverage the past couple of weeks is the sentence given to the Stanford University swimmer who raped an unconscious woman in January 2015.
Now I am one of the people who have shared the cartoon on Facebook comparing getting consent to offering and giving a person a cup of tea. Just as someone who is asleep or unconscious can’t say yes to a cup of tea and shouldn’t be forced to drink a cup of tea, a woman who is unconscious can’t consent to a sexual encounter. And what woman would say “Yes, I’d just love for you to penetrate me late at night in an alley behind a dumpster?”
The cherry on top of the sundae of craziness was the fact that the judge gave the rapist a sentence of six months in the county jail because he had already been sufficiently traumatized by being booked, put on trial, and convicted of the crimes he committed. With good behavior he will only serve three months in jail.
My initial reaction to the sentencing was to join in the uproar. How could the judge possibly do this? Has he no concept of what the woman involved experienced? Did he hear any of the twelve pages of the letter she read in court prior to sentencing? Is this truly white male privilege at its highest extreme?
Where was the judge’s sense of humanity? Where was the sense of humanity on the part of the young man’s father who pled for leniency for his son? Where was the young man’s sense of responsibility for his actions?
In church we have been studying Gary Simmons’ book The I of the Storm: Embracing Conflict, Creating Peace. One of his recurrent themes is “No one is against you.” This is tied to the concept of looking for the good in any situation.
When I took the time to step back and look at what was happening, in the United States, if not the rest of the world, I was amazed.
In the past, a campus rape would rarely be mentioned beyond the campus itself or the city where the campus is located. The victim would receive minimal support and the rapist, even if convicted, would fade into the background.
In this instance, because the punishment dispensed to the guilty party is so inappropriate, the whole situation has become a topic of discussion in social media. Men, in addition to the usual chorus of upset women, are speaking out on how out of line the rapist, his father, and the judge were. The Vice President of the United States has made a statement. People are talking about how awful the whole thing is.
The problem is being given the attention necessary to possibly bring about future changes in both the behavior of young men and the punishment they are given.
Yet if the judge had given the defendant in this case the six-year sentence that was recommended by the prosecutors, the whole case would have disappeared into the legal archives. Instead a giant spotlight has been focused on rape and the fact that there is no excuse for this behavior.
I feel great empathy for the victim. I hope the sentence won’t discourage future victims from stepping forward and reporting what has happened to them.
I want to believe that the uproar we are witnessing will bring about a real change in how rape is perceived in the future, and that future perpetrators will be given sentences that fit the crime. And that possible future perpetrators will realize how wrong the action is and stop before taking it.
What are your reactions to this situation? Even though you are not involved in this specific case, the probability is that your emotions have been tapped. Learning to see the possible positive outcomes of a negative experience can help you feel more whole yourself as you move forward.
Your experience and the positive outcomes from this or similar experiences can serve as the basis for your book or serve as illustrations to points you want to make in your book or signature talk.
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Want some help getting started with your book? Give me a call at 843-593-0045 or use this link to schedule your complimentary Enchanted Book Session.
Note: I have deliberately not used the names of the men involved in this story. I wanted to focus our attention on what happened, not on who did or said what.