In January 2015, two bikers came across Stanford student, Brock Turner, on top of an unconscious woman who had recently been at a frat party. Thursday, June 2nd, Turner was convicted of three felony charges. Turner was sentenced to six months in the county jail along with three years of probation. On the last day of his trial, the woman he assaulted addressed Turner. During her address, she stated, that she had no recollection of the night in which the incident occurred. She only remembers being "in a gurney in a hallway. I had dried blood and bandages on the backs of my hands and elbows."
She painted a vivid and heartbreaking picture of a woman finding out she had been sexually assaulted. She described how she "looked down and there was nothing. The thin piece of fabric, the only thing between my vagina and anything else, was missing and everything inside of me silenced. I still don't have words for that feeling. In order to keep breathing, I thought maybe the policeman used scissors to cut them off for evidence."
She described to Turner what she went through at the hospital. How her nurses told her the pine needles stuck in her hair were "flowers and fauna" to keep her calm. "After a few hours of this, they let me shower. I stood there examining my body beneath the stream of water and decided, I don't want my body anymore. I was terrified of it."
Afterwards, she was told where she had been assaulted and allowed to go home, with nothing of her own except for a necklace and a pair of shoes.
In court, she told Turner and everyone present, how she found out all the details of her assault: "This was how I learned what happened to me, sitting at my desk reading the news at work. I learned what happened to me the same time everyone else in the world learned what happened to me."
Defense lawyers like to refer to sexual assault cases as ‘he said-she said' to try and make it seem like it’s difficult to prove that any assault happened. In the Turner case, the victim brought this up while addressing Turner. She recalled the moment she found out all the details of her assault and how, at the bottom of the article, was information about Turner’s swimming career.. This sort of information seemed to credit and legitimize Turner. Later in her address, she was told to "be prepared" in case they did not win the case. The lawyer for Turner "constantly reminded the jury, the only one we can believe is Turner, because she doesn't remember."
But lack of memory does not mean it did not happen.
Even after an assault has taken place, a victim continues to feel immense pain. A court case can mean months, even years, of continual damage. In her address, the victim described feelings of being attacked in a new way. "After a physical assault, I was assaulted with questions designed to attack me, to say see, her facts don’t line up, she’s out of her mind, she’s practically an alcoholic, she probably wanted to hook up, he’s like an athlete right, they were both drunk, whatever, the hospital stuff she remembers is after the fact, why take it into account, Brock has a lot at stake so he’s having a really hard time right now."
With lapse of memory, comes the opportunity for the defense to weave a new story. In this one, Turner wove a story of a woman who consented. In the words of the victim, "[E]ven in his story, I only said a total of three words, yes yes yes, before he had me half naked on the ground. Future reference, if you are confused about whether a girl can consent, see if she can speak an entire sentence."
In response to the sentencing of Turner, the victim said " The probation officer’s recommendation of a year or less in county jail is a soft timeout, a mockery of the seriousness of his assaults, an insult to me and all women. It gives the message that a stranger can be inside you without proper consent and he will receive less than what has been defined as the minimum sentence." She also said that she felt as though her words had been misconstrued while speaking with the probation officer.
During the year and a half in which this case was in the news, there was a significant emphasis placed on Turner's swimming record, and the probation officer's report was no exception. The victim states that "the probation officer weighed the fact that he had surrendered a hard earned swimming scholarship. How fast Brock swims does not lessen the severity of what happened to me, and should not lessen the severity of his punishment. If a first time offender from an underprivileged background was accused of three felonies and displayed no accountability for his actions other than drinking, what would his sentence be?"
In the conclusion of her address to Turner and the court, she thanked the people who were beside her during the devastating time. Among the list were her parents, her sister, the nurses at the hospital, and the “detective who listened to me and never judged me.” She thanked everyone who showed their support, who believed her, and those who helped her begin to heal.
She thanked the two men on the bicycles who found her, who saw something was not right, and tackled Turner when he tried to flee.
She finished, not mentioning Turner or her assault, but with a message to other girls, saying “Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you.”