This furious open letter expresses what many women have been thinking about the Stanford rape case

Bethan McKernan@mck_beth
Saturday 11 June 2016 17:30
Celebrities

Debate over the issues of consent, victim blaming and rape apologism was reignited last week thanks to the publication of a powerful, moving letter read out in court by the Stanford rape survivor to her attacker.

20-year-old Brock Turner only got a six month sentence after being found guilty of three counts of assault in the January 2015 attack. He could be out in less time with good behaviour.

Despite the nature of the woman's injuries, the fact she was unconscious and the testimony of two witnesses, there has still been a ferocious backlash to the idea that the competitive swimmer could possibly be guilty of rape.

It must be Emily Doe's own fault, the argument goes, because she was drinking. Turner, for his part, maintains that he did nothing wrong.

The victim's letter is a harrowing read, and has struck a chord with millions of people - expressing, as it does, a familiar refrain.

When women are violated, we're asked 'what did you do to deserve this?' and often our past is looked at for clues.

When men violate women they're asked, 'what did you have to lose?' and their future is looked at for clues.

The fallout has left many people frustrated with the parameters within which we talk about consent and sexual assault.

Liz Ruddy from Los Angeles got so fed up of having to justify being angry about the case that she wrote an open letter "to the guy at work (you know who you are)".

The letter, which reads like a poem, has since been shared and liked a combined 45,000 times at time of writing:

An Open Letter to the Guy at Work (you know who you are)

-

It’s a Monday morning and we’re making small-talk,
like,

“How was your weekend?”

“You see that fire out in Calabasas?” “It’s been so cloudy lately.”

“So how about that rape letter?”

Yeah, you saw I’d posted about it “like seven times.”

Yeah, I tell you it makes me angry.

Angrier than usual.

(You know, because this is usual.)

“Listen,” you say, and you pause,

like, “I’m trying to figure out how to phrase this.”

That’s when I pull out the thick skin,

the kind women always keep tied around their waists

like an extra flannel shirt,

ready to throw on before meetings or rape trials,

or walking down the street,

or making small-talk at the office,

like,

I’ll try my best not to get offended by what you say,

because I know how offensive it is

to have my own opinion.

“People are saying that it’s 100% his fault and 0% her

fault…”

You say, hesitantly,

the way women are taught to speak,

afraid of their own mouths.

“And I agree…

BUT—

DON’T YOU ALSO AGREE

THAT THIS WHOLE THING

COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED

IF SHE HAD JUST BEEN

MORE

RESPONSIBLE."

I stare at you in disbelief for a moment,

sick to my stomach,

like, stranger groping my ass in a crowded train

kind of sick to my stomach,

just as unable to respond,

to discern bile from protest

bubbling in my throat,

wanting to explain,

like, hey,

JUST SO YOU KNOW,

you don’t need to play devil’s advocate—

he’s already got one,

and he’s good enough to get him off

with only six months.

But I knew that any response of mine

would be sharp

like, car keys between knuckles sharp,

and so instead

I did the only

responsible

thing I could do in that situation.

I walked away.

But I should’ve remembered

that my retreating back

is a fucking invitation,

because as I did so,

you felt the need to add insult to injury,

like, turning away wasn’t enough of an indication

that this subject was too painful

for me to deal with right now,

like, I wasn’t allowed to walk away

without your permission.

So you got in one last word, like,

“Seriously! Just think about it!”

Think about it.

Like I don’t.

Like I have the fucking privilege

of not thinking about it.

Like I don’t think about it

when I go for a run after work

and instead of using a timer,

my personal best is just

running faster than anyone who’s following me.

Like I don’t think about it

when I leave the headphones at home

on my way to pick up milk,

because I need to hear if anyone’s coming up behind me

and it’s already hard to make it out

over the soundtrack of my someday interrogation

like,

Don’t you know you live in K-town?

Why would you walk alone after dark?

What did you think was going to happen?

Like I don’t think about it

when I pick an outfit from my closet

and look at it like a piece of evidence,

like,

if I get raped when I’m wearing this tonight,

how guilty would it make me?

Like maybe they should mark it on the tag,

60% cotton, 40% her fault.

Like I don’t think about it

when strangers offer to buy me a beer.

Like this is fucking Wonderland

and that bottle says

“drink me”

and my miniskirt says

“rape me,”

like we’re all just making bad choices,

and the fact that I’m shrinking

into nothing

is just a nasty side-effect

of this toxic culture

to which we both fell victim.

Like I don’t fucking think about it

when my little sister sends me photos

that she wants to put on Facebook,

for my APPROVAL.

To make sure they’re appropriate.

To make sure they’re safe.

To imagine them under a headline

about how she got raped behind a dumpster,

like, does this profile picture test well

with the jury of Buzzfeed commenters?

I wonder if they’ll use his mug shot or his yearbook

photo.

I wonder what his swimming times are.

“Just think about it,” you tell me.

Just think about it?

Like I don’t think about it when boys like you

say shit like,

“But don’t you also agree

that this whole thing

could have been avoided

if she had just been more

responsible.”

Like I don’t constantly think about

how I live in a world

where women are held responsible for the actions of men.

Like I didn’t learn that in middle school

when girls were sent home

for wearing tank tops with straps

thinner than two fingers.

Like it wasn’t made clear

every time they called us

“daughters, sisters, mothers”

that we only exist in relation to men,

that we are merely extensions of them,

so of course,

naturally,

we should be more responsible,

so as not to let them rape us

and ruin their own life

with the same two fingers

they once used to measure our straps.

Like I don’t think about it.

Like I can choose not to think about it.

Like I wasn’t up all fucking night thinking about it.

But it’s almost 5am,

and I need to sleep before tomorrow,

so I have the energy to smile at the men on the street,

so they don’t have to ask me to.

But first, I need to make sure

that I’m being perfectly clear—

like, “no means no” clear,

like, “an intoxicated person cannot consent” clear,

like, “an unconscious person cannot consent” clear,

like, “sex without consent is not sex, it’s rape” clear,

like, “guilty on three counts of sexual assault” clear.

(I’m sorry, am I not being clear?)

Here, let me keep it simple.

NO.

I do NOT fucking agree.

Seriously.

Think about it.

indy100 has contacted Ruddy for comment. Her original post is below:

More: Everyone should read this incredibly powerful letter from the Stanford rape victim to her attacker

More: Seven things that have been blamed for the Stanford rape case other than sexual assault

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