Why I Don’t Walk Alone

Genevieve Wisdom, Reporter

I check out in the grocery store at 10:30 at night (I felt like a late night ice cream binge) feeling completely at ease. That is, until I take a step outside. That’s when I realize my situation- a young woman, outside, alone, late at night. It’s not long before I’m clutching my keys like a weapon and jogging to my car.

This may seem like an overreaction; we live in a safe town and there are lots of people just inside the store. But in a world where one out of every six women are victims of rape, I’m not going to take any chances.

Recently it was announced that Brock Turner, the infamous “Stanford Rapist,” would be released from jail three months early, serving only half of his original sentence. The original sentence was controversial enough, seeing as he was charged with three felony convictions for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman and was only sentenced to six months in jail with probation. The prosecution was initially asking for a six year sentence, but Turner’s father asked Judge Aaron Persky to have mercy, since Turner hadn’t been a trouble maker before this, and said it was just twenty minutes of bad judgement out of his twenty year life.

Judge Persky said, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him.” He decided that jail would have too much of a long-term, negative impact on him. However, they failed to realize that he would simply have the same punishment as he gave his victim. This young woman he assaulted will be haunted by that night for the rest of her life, and she will never be the same, all because of him. In my opinion, he should be in jail for decades, or at least treated the same as every other rapist, despite how much “potential” he showed.

Unfortunately, this sentence seemed to have started a trend of giving privileged white men incredibly light sentences for being convicted of rape and sexual assault. 22 year old Austin Wilkerson was convicted of sexual assault and was sentenced to only two years in prison (with work/school release) with 20 years of probation. This seems like a much more appropriate sentence until you learn that the average prison time for rape is eight to nine years. That makes John Enoch’s case seem even more extreme, since he was charged with two counts of rape and spent only a singular day in jail with one year of probation. These men are committing heinous crimes and getting away with such little punishment that it’s telling other young white men that they can rape women without consequence. I’m not saying it’s encouraging anyone, but that’s certainly the message it’s sending. These judges are also telling the victims that the pain they’re feeling and the fear that consumes them isn’t as bad as eight years in jail would be for these men.

94% of women who are raped experienced symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) in the two weeks following the rape, according to RAINN, the leading authority on sexual violence, and 30% have PTSD nine months after the rape. A third of the women who are raped contemplate suicide, and 13% attempt it. This makes sense, since 70% of victims have moderate to severe distress, which is a larger rate than any other violent crime. The victim of the Wilkerson attack said, “when I’m not having nightmares about the rape, retaliation or a retrial gone awry, I’m having panic attacks. Some days I can’t even get out of bed.” The fact that these judges think the attackers deserve light sentences despite the damage that they’ve caused seems incredulous to me. These men do not deserve mercy. In the words of Wilkerson’s victim, “Have as much mercy for the rapist as he did for me that night.”

Not only do these cases demonstrate extreme sexism in rape culture, it’s also a huge example of white privilege. Corey Batey, a former football player at Vanderbilt, was charged with three felony counts for aggravated rape and aggravated sexual assault. There was lots of evidence, and he was sentenced with 15 to 25 years in prison. Turner, similarly, had multiple felony rape charged with eyewitness evidence, but was only sentenced to six months in a local jail, serving only three for good behavior. However, Turner, unlike Batey, is white. It seems like if the attacker is white, he “shows a lot of potential,” but that doesn’t matter if they’re a person of color. This is one of the most dangerous demonstrations of white privilege. Of course, I’m not saying Batey should have a lighter sentences- quite on the contrary. I believe all rapists should be sentenced to 15 to 25 years in prison like Batey.

These men are inflicting extreme damage onto their victims, who will suffer for the rest of their lives, and it’s being forgiven. These men are being let off with far too few consequences, which will just increase the number of rapes that occur. These judges should be recalled, and these men should spend the rest of their youth in prison. Our society needs to start taking rape much more seriously, since it is one of the most dangerous and common crimes in the US. According to the FBI, a rape is reported about every five minutes, and only 16% of rapes get reported. This needs to be stopped, so women don’t have to live in fear of being the one out of every six women to be a victim.