The recent trial of a Stanford undergrad has stirred up conversations about justice, consenting to sex, alcohol consumption, and unequal treatment in judicial proceedings this week. These are not light topics, but each of the issues discussed has implications for anyone raising a teen. The woman who was the victim of the sexual assault wrote an extremely powerful statement that was shared on social media. I read her statement and it has impacted me. The way I plan to approach these topics in clinical encounters as well as in my personal life (as a mom, aunt, and friend) has shifted from one of focusing on the individual to one of considering our cultural norms regarding sexual consent and women, not as fellow human beings but as sexual objects.
In this case, the woman went to a party while visiting family in Northern California. At some point in the evening, she was found unconscious, behind a dumpster, actively being assaulted by an undergraduate male. Two people passing by caught him in the act and held him until police arrived. The perpetrator was convicted of at least 3 felonies and the judge sentenced him to serve only 6 months in county jail. The sentencing could have been 15-20 years in prison based on his convictions.
Read her 12 page statement here. The points below are taken verbatim from her statement. Please note, these do contain graphic content.
- “if you are confused about whether a girl can consent, see if she can speak an entire sentence… Just one coherent string of words. If she can’t do that, then no. Don’t touch her, just no. Not maybe, just no”
- “According to him [the perpetrator], the only reason we were on the ground was because I fell down. Note; if a girl falls help her get back up. If she is too drunk to even walk and falls, do not mount her, hump her, take off her underwear… If a girl falls help her up.”
- “Alcohol is not an excuse. Is it a factor? Yes. But alcohol was not the one who stripped me… had my head dragging against the ground, with me almost fully naked. Having too much to drink was…mistake that I admit to, but it is not criminal…Regretting drinking is not the same as regretting sexual assault”
- “you were not wrong for drinking. Everyone around you was not sexually assaulting me. You were wrong for doing what nobody else was doing, which was pushing your [genitals] against my naked, defenseless body concealed in a dark area, where partygoers could no longer see or protect me, and my own sister could not find me. Sipping fireball is not your crime. Peeling off and discarding my underwear like a candy wrapper… is where you went wrong”
- “realize, having a drinking problem is different than drinking and then forcefully trying to have sex with someone? Show men how to respect women, not how to drink less.”
- “The probation officer weighed the fact that he has surrendered a hard earned swimming scholarship. If I had been sexually assaulted by an un-athletic guy from a community college, what would his sentence be? If a first time offender from an underprivileged background was accused of three felonies and displayed no accountability for his actions other than drinking, what would his sentence be? How fast he swims does not lessen the impact of what happened to me.”
- “The Probation Officer has stated that this case, when compared to other crimes of similar nature, may be considered less serious due to the defendant’s level of intoxication. It felt serious. That’s all I’m going to say”
I encourage you to read her entire statement. It is well written, covers topics ranging from consent, alcohol, unequal sentencing for serious crimes, and the disregard of her status as a human being not an object that was exhibited by the perpetrator, his family, and the court.