Thursday, June 09, 2016

From one who got justice

I am a rape survivor. With all the well-deserved attention garnered recently by the Stanford rapist, his father's stunningly blind and cowardly letter of defense, and his victim's brave, thoughtful, and moving letter of impact, my own experience has been on my mind more than usual. I've compared the details of our two cases and drawn parallels (many) as well as distinctions (few, but significant).

The most significant difference between us, this amazing woman who I don't know, yet almost feel as if I do, is that I got justice for what Robert Murphy, my rapist, did to me. My rapist is about eight years into a 60-year sentence in maximum-security prison, precisely where he belongs. It's possible he will get out after as few as 30 years, depending on his behavior, but that's still ages longer than most rapists get, if they get convicted at all. I reported my rape, made a statement (I'll never forget how the police officer who responded put his face into his hands when I described the details of what my rapist did to me), worked with detectives and prosecutors, testified against my rapist, and looked him in the eye as I identified him before a court of law as the man who raped me. This process was stressful and harrowing, and it took a year of my life. But I was rewarded by the removal of my rapist from society.

The Stanford victim went through a very similar process, but she did not receive the same reward. She still beat the odds by having a case that went to trial at all, that secured a conviction, and that resulted in any jail time whatsoever (even if it was a paltry six months). But the time of the rape to the time of sentencing was more than twice as long as the fucking sentence. That is, her ordeal lasted longer than her rapist's will last (and of course we're not talking about the lifelong implications yet). That is NOT OKAY EVER. "Twenty minutes of action"? The rape is only the beginning, you piece of shit.

You can see that I'm angry. I'm still angry at my rapist. I hate him and I will never forgive him (like Brock Turner, he never admitted his responsibility; maybe I would feel differently if he did). If he dies in prison, I will celebrate, because then I will never have to worry about him again. When I'm low, I like to think about all the women he will not rape during the next 22 or more years. Every day I have to live with the memories of what he did and how he made me feel. And this is coming from that rare person for whom the justice system actually worked. So I can't imagine the anger she must feel, the flailing, powerless rage that must consume her and all the other victims who are forced to accept injustice.

In fact, beyond, you know, being raped in the first place, my situation was about as ideal as one could hope. I had the full and constant support of family, friends, law enforcement, and the prosecutor's office. No one questioned the veracity of my story, made comments about what I was doing in an isolated location all alone, insinuated I was asking for it by wearing form-fitting clothing, or any other ridiculous justification for blaming me. No one blamed me at all--everyone blamed him. He had no defenders, only court-appointed public counsel. All I received was praise for being brave. Why was this? Privilege? I'm sure that was part of it, maybe all of it. I am an athletic, college-educated white woman with blond hair, a young professional. He is white too, but he was poor and had a lengthy criminal history, including jail time for a similar offense. We all know Brock Turner's status as an athlete with a "promising future" and no criminal record swayed the decision on his case. Robert Murphy had none of these things. They're both garbage humans, but only one of them is spending a significant portion of the rest of his life in prison.

What I'm getting to is that my case is a huge outlier. What made it different from so many others? Why was I believed? Because it fit a narrative that people use to comfort themselves that what they did wasn't rape? Because it was a stranger who jumped out of the bushes and attacked from behind? I wasn't drinking or partying? I wasn't exposing skin? Can we just take a moment here and realize what we're telling women and victims (it's up to you to avoid it, but if you don't, you were probably asking for it) as well as entitled, violence-prone men (when she dresses like that, it's all for you) when we probe for those distinctions? 

Even with support, even with no blame, even with justice, the rape was bad enough. And now I submit to you that to be without these things, or even one of these things, is many times worse. I can only imagine how bad. I can give you a firsthand account of being raped, and of the process of participating in a trial, but not of what it feels like to be victim-blamed, gaslighted, revictimized in the media, scrutinized by strangers, denied justice, forced to see and/or interact with my rapist, afraid of seeing him when I go out in public, etc. Only those victims who have been through it know. And who imposes these things on the victim? Society does. And we have to do better.

I don't have the answers; I'm just here to say that living with trauma and having a perfectly good life is possible. All victims should get that. Believe them. Support them. Remember that they're people. People who didn't choose this. People who expected nothing more than a fun night and maybe a hangover.


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