Sexual Abuse a.k.a. Sexual Violence

Sexual abuse, sometimes referred to as sexual violence, is a crime that effects one out of three women and one out of six men in the US. Those numbers are probably understated because many victims decide not to report the offense. The CDC defines sexual violence as follows.

Sexual violence is any sexual activity where consent is not freely given. This includes completed or attempted sex acts that are against the victim’s will or involve a victim who is unable to consent through use of force or alcohol/drug facilitation.

Sexual Violence can be prevented. CDC’s technical package, STOP SV: A Technical Package to Prevent Sexual Violence, [1]can help states and communities prevent sexual violence.“[2]

Although the whole idea of sexual violence is abhorrent, from researching and reading about this issue, the government appears to be doing the right thing. It is illegal. Awareness and prevention programs are in place. Having said that, the courts need to do a better job of enforcing the laws and punishing those convicted of rape. It’s not enough to have the laws if the courts don’t enforce them. The case of Brock Turner illustrates this issue very well.

Do you remember this face? This is the face of white male privilege. Not the famous faces, this is the everyday face. This is the face of Brock Tuner. Do you remember the name? The criminal justice system was exposed for its disproportionate handling of this sexual violence case.

“People v. Turner, formally People of the State of California v. Brock Allen Turner (2015), was a criminal case filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court which convicted Brock Allen Turner of three counts of felony sexual assault. Turner was a student athlete at Stanford University on January 18, 2015, when he sexually penetrated an intoxicated and unconscious 22-year-old[1] woman (later called “Emily Doe”[2]) with his fingers.[3][4]

Turner was caught by two Stanford international students from Sweden, who testified that they intervened because the woman appeared to be unconscious. Turner fled the scene as they approached, resulting in the two apprehending and restraining him until police arrived to take him in custody.[4][5] The police arrested Turner on Stanford’s campus, and booked him into the Santa Clara County jail on suspicion of attempted rape and penetration with a foreign object.[6][7] He was released the same day after posting $150,000 bail.[8]

Turner was indicted on January 28, 2015, on five charges: two for rape, two for felony sexual assault, and one for attempted rape.[8] He was arraigned on February 2, 2015, pleading not guilty on all five charges.[9] On October 7, 2015, after reviewing the results of DNA tests, the two rape charges were dropped by prosecutors.[4][8] The trial began on March 14, 2016,[10] and concluded on March 30, 2016, with Turner being convicted of the three remaining charges of felony sexual assault.[11][12] The convictions carried a potential sentence of 14 years in prison. Prosecutors recommended six years in prison while probation officials recommended a “moderate” county jail sentence.[13] On June 2, 2016, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to six months confinement in the Santa Clara County jail (of which he served half) to be followed by three years of probation. Additionally, Turner was informed of his life-long obligation to be lawfully registered as a sex offender[14]and furthermore, ordered to complete a state approved rehabilitation program for sex offenders.[12]

Immediately after Turner’s conviction, widespread public criticism emerged, accusing Persky of judicial bias in favor of male and class privilege,[15] leading to campaigns for his recall or resignation. The Santa Clara County Bar Association and public defenders defended Persky, saying that the sentence was based upon the probation report as well as being consistent with similar cases, and stated that his removal would be a “threat to judicial independence”.[16][17]

The victim impact statement to the court was also widely disseminated by international media outlets, fueling a resurgence of the wider debate regarding the prevalence of campus sexual assault overall. Her statement described her suffering in vivid detail, dissecting and criticizing Turner’s actions both during and after the assault, and criticizing the probation department’s recommendation of a short sentence for Turner. According to Vice News, the case had become “the latest, controversial episode in an ongoing debate sweeping the U.S. about rape culture, privilege in the criminal justice system, and campus safety”.[18][3]

In a subsequent development, the District Attorney rejected an appeal of his conviction by Brock Turner. Wimpy sentences for sexual assault crimes do nothing to dissuade others from committing the offense. In June of 2018, voters removed the judge who sentenced Brock Turner.[4]

I posted this complete description of the Brock Turner case for two reasons. The first is as a reminder to anyone who runs into Turner today, They should know what he did. The second is as a reminder that the criminal justice system still has some work to do before it truly serves justice in sexual violence cases. Not mentioned anywhere in the coverage of the case is the unspoken reality that if Brock had been a poor minority kid, he would still be in jail. Sexual violence has a close relative called Sexual Harassment.

Sexual Harassment

For a comprehensive but discouraging understanding of this issue, read the Guardian article Sexual harassment 101: what everyone needs to know[5] The most depressing statement in the article was:

About one in five women do report it. Their outcomes are poor: 80%, according to the TUC report, found that nothing changed; 16% said that the situation worsened afterwards.”

If you do the math, that means that only 4% of reported sexual harassment cases produced favorable results for the victim. The #MeToo movement provides a source of unity, empowerment, and encouragement to all people who feel that they are being sexually harassed or victimized. Before you keep reading, let these numbers sink in.

· Only 20% of the victims report the crime.

· 80% of those who reported it say that nothing changed.

· 16% said things got worse.

· Only 4% of those who reported the offense said things got better.

I highly recommend reading “The Legal System Needs to Catch Up With the #MeToo Movement”[6] from The Nation magazine. I was very surprised to see that sexual harassment was this prevalent. I suppose I should have had a clue when Donald Trump was caught on tape bragging about being a serial sexual predator and didn’t pay any political price for it. Since then people like Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, and countless others have been accused of some form of sexual harassment. In case you do not have a clear understanding of what sexual harassment is, it boils down to people in an employment setting or relationship using their power of position to create an uncomfortable sexual relationship with an employee. To emphasize the breadth of the problem, I have provided footnotes linking to two articles listing the offenders.[7] [8]

For a more comprehensive definition of sexual harassment, read the following from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website: “Facts About Sexual Harassment:

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government.

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:

· The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.

· The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.

· The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.

· Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.

· The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

It is helpful for the victim to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.”[9]

If you are as outraged as we all should be by the situation, join the #MeToo movement and get involved in working towards a solution — https://metoomvmt.org/

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/sv-prevention-technical-package.pdf

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/features/sexualviolence/index.html

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People_v._Turner

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/06/06/voters-remove-judge-who-sentenced-brock-turner-to-six-months-in-stanford-rape-case/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.adeb920dc43b

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/16/facts-sexual-harassment-workplace-harvey-weinstein

[6] https://www.thenation.com/article/the-legal-system-needs-to-catch-up-with-the-metoo-movement/

[7] https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/sexual-misconduct/weinstein-here-s-growing-list-men-accused-sexual-misconduct-n816546

[8] https://www.glamour.com/gallery/post-weinstein-these-are-the-powerful-men-facing-sexual-harassment-allegations

[9] https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/fs-sex.cfm

Allan is a lifetime educator with two daily goals. 1) learn something. 2) Make the world a better place.