SAAD: Rapists are humanized while victims are ignored
Opinions Column: My V is for Victory
One in five women will be raped in their lifetimes. But you knew that, right? You have seen the facts and the figures so many times that you can assert, without even a moment of hesitation, that one out of five women that you know, speak to, are friends with, are dating will have someone force themselves on them at some point in their life, most likely while they are young adults. But you ignore it because, 1 in 5 doesn’t really mean one out of every five. And the way you see it, the women you know in your life will never be affected by it.
You hear about rape cases in the news all the time. You’ve heard of Brock Turner, and you remember being angry about him, but that anger sizzled down to a mere sting and you don’t think of it much anymore. But you know who does think about it? Do you know who thinks about it in her every waking moment? Do you know who spends day after day living inside of a body that no longer feels her own? The woman — the living, breathing, human being — that Brock Turner raped. But because she chose to maintain her anonymity, because she chose to keep her identity a secret so that the entire world does not have to know that she was the woman who was unconscious on the ground while her rapist sexually assaulted her, the media decides to focus on Turner instead. You know that he is a swimmer, in fact a great one. You know about his favorite food, his future aspirations, and even how hard he worked in grade school on studying for his spelling tests. Before you know it, Turner is not just a name but a person, with a childhood and a future and a world of life in between. Meanwhile, his victim is nothing but a vague whisper. And what is easier to defend, a person or a nobody?
I, for one, am angry. Time and time again the media feeds into America’s twisted thirst for the psychological analysis of the criminal and fails to realize that they are popularizing rape and glorifying its representatives. By creating a humanizing backstory to inhumane people, they are alleviating their charges in the eyes of the public as well as those who are meant to prosecute them. For raping a fellow college student while she was unconscious, and leaving her there behind a dumpster, Turner got a mere six-month sentence in which he only served half for his “good behavior.” I mean, what else did you expect of the star swimmer and speller?
This is not the first time the media has failed women in rape cases. Just recently, news of Cecil Burrows’s sentencing came to light. Burrows was convicted of recording and “coaching” a gang rape of a “nearly comatose woman,” as The Washington Post describes her. This is the only description of the woman that is provided aside from reference to her as “the victim.” Meanwhile, the Post goes on to describe, in the entirety of its article, Burrows’ life as a child and how his rough circumstances and broken family lead to his involvement in gang life. The article goes on to describe Burrows’ conversation with a private investigator and how he vouched for his own character and how hard it was for him to break free from the crippling positions poverty had forced him into. The article even includes a quote form Burrows speaking on the tempting "love, connection, and belonging" the gang life provided for him. Meanwhile, there are no quotes from the victim, no descriptions of her childhood, no vouches on her characternothing. In fact, the only other detail about her in the rest of the article is a quote from her attorney defending her. What results from this? Cecil Burrows (who by the end of the article I feel as though I know personally) is sentenced to — not a 13-year sentence as the maximum plea deal indicates — but a mere 18 months. Do you know how long that rape is going to stay with that young woman? Her whole life.
Rape has become a joke in American culture. The ramifications that should be implemented for any person who destroys another person’s right to their own body are being ignored, and rather, meager punishments are put in their place. The system and its media are thus saying to rapists that not only will they get off with a minimum sentence, but their life story will be eulogized. And if you are raped, well — who are you again?
Syeda Khaula Saad is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in English and journalism and media studies with a minor in French. Her column, “My V is for Victory” runs on alternate Tuesdays.
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