Campus rape is a problem the world over. And campuses provide the perfect backdrop against which rape culture plays out: The perpetrators (usually male) are promising young students with their futures ahead of them. The victims (usually female) should consider how their actions (having the temerity to report being raped), will affect the promising young rapist.

It is this exact culture that the Rhodes rape protests centred around. That women (promising young students themselves) who report rape, are tied up in red tape, disbelieved and humiliated to preserve the careers of the poor men who raped them (or, in some cases, to preserve the reputation of the institution that should care for them).

A recent conviction in the United States has once again brought rape culture under the spotlight, with the attitudes expressed by both the father of rapist (not “alleged”; he has been convicted) and his victim, expressing just how rape culture favours the guilty.

In March, 20-year-old Brock Allen Turner was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault for raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. On Thursday, he was sentenced to six months in prison (more on this later). At his sentencing, his father submitted a letter pleading for leniency. This is what he had to say:

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“He will never be his happy-go-lucky self with that easygoing personality and welcoming smile. His every waking minute is consumed with worry, anxiety, fear and depression. You can see this in his face, the way he walks, his weakened voice, his lack of appetite.”

The dad then goes on to explain how he doesn’t like a good ribeye steak or fistful of pretzels anymore. And he added, “It [prison] is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action [rape] out of his 20 plus years of life.”
Compare this, then, to the letter read out by Turner’s victim:

“My independence, natural joy, gentleness, and steady lifestyle I had been enjoying became distorted beyond recognition. I became closed off, angry, self deprecating, tired, irritable, empty. The isolation at times was unbearable. You cannot give me back the life I had before that night either. While you worry about your shattered reputation, I refrigerated spoons every night so when I woke up, and my eyes were puffy from crying, I would hold the spoons to my eyes to lessen the swelling so that I could see.”

And that’s only a part of it. You can read the full letter here.

Yet again, violence against women is swept under the rug while men expect sympathy for how much they fear prison. Remember Oscar Pistorious and Christopher Panayiotou?

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While Turner has been found guilty in a unanimous verdict, many victims don’t get such results because of the odds stacked against them by the attitudes of rape culture. Even in Turner’s case the sentence, which could potentially have been 14 years, was reduced because the judge said it “would have a severe impact on Turner” who, by the way, is a champion swimmer who once aspired to compete in the Olympics.

Even when the verdict is right, the outcome still stinks. Thanks, rape culture.

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