Brock Turner raped a woman.
Brock Turner's dad, Dan Turner, also wrote a character witness letter for his son about how much he has to contribute to the world, how many fewer ribeye steaks his son now eats, how non-violent of a rapist he is, and how much he has suffered because of "20 minutes of action."
I am a dad.
I am someone who is more likely to get the special treatment that this white male swimming star did than the treatment that the survivor of this crime did. The same goes for the dad who wrote this bullshit letter.
Recently, I shared a story about Old Navy creating a shirt that suggested Father's Day was just another day for "her." The shirt seemed to be an easy dig at dads for not being suitable caregivers for their children. It suggested that dads were being inferior when it came to raising children. I got angry when I saw this shirt and I shared it because of that anger.
This made me think about what makes me angry as a dad.
If I share outrage at a shirt that criticizes a dad’s competency, I better ensure that I'm a competent dad. And I better prioritize what I should be angry about. Or, at the very least, I should recognize that there are things that go on in this world every day that dads should be angry about.
You see, the shirt with the dumb message about dads affects me because I am a dad and it tells me that I'm not needed. It's a stupid shirt, no doubt. I should be offended by it. I feel okay saying that I think it is wrong and I feel okay sharing my opinion on that.
But what about a young woman who has had her entire life altered? What about women who have been victims of assaults? What about the many women who either don’t report it or, when they do, are immediately discredited. Or women who are asked to reflect on their story because they should think about the impact a false accusation might have on the perpetrator. Do these all-too-familiar scenarios also alter my life?
If I were to commit a crime, I would have my smiling face plastered all over the media instead of my mugshot. I'd have my potential contributions to the world discussed at sentencing. People would ask how I could ever do something like that and pressure the victim into answering what they did to deserve this.
Staying silent helps me maintain the fairly barrier-free system that my life operates in.
So what is the role of a dad?
Well, it’s not about staying silent.
To me, being a competent dad means recognizing there are many things we don't see happening but acknowledging that they do anyway. It's about believing people who our society defaults to not believing. It's about watching another dad talk about 20 minutes of action and thinking “That's not being a dad, that's being an asshole."
It’s about realizing that the mistakes started well before your child commits a sexual assault---way back to when we failed to talk to our kids about consent, about respecting others and about believing survivors.
It’s about more than closing our eyes and trying to imagine that survivor as our mom or our sister or our daughter and recognizing immediately that that survivor is a person whether we know them or not.
It's about getting mad at things that impact us but also getting irate at the things that happen to people who don't believe.
There are many things we can be doing as parents to better support survivors. I can think of at least six things dads can do right now to start addressing rape culture:
- Believe victims.
- Let people know you believe victims.
- Be angry at those who blame victims and tell them you are. People who ask what they were wearing. Who ask why they were drinking. Who ask why they were at a party with a bunch of boys.
- Listen when people tell you that you don't experience things the same way as they do.
- Talk to your friends, family, and foes when they make light of these things.
- Keep learning.
I want to keep learning. I want to do better. I want people to know I believe them.