Thursday, June 9, 2016

Raising a Son in a World of Brock Turners


This whole Stanford Rapist Who Can Swim thing has been everywhere this week, and I haven't tried to escape it. I've read the letters, read the articles, and shared in the discussion. I found myself wandering between disbelief and outrage.

It was strange to realize I've been in the courtroom of the judge who sentenced Turner to the prison equivalent of cleaning chalkboard erasers after elementary school. He annoyed me then. He infuriates me now.

At first, I didn't talk about the Stanford case around my son. I didn't want to talk about rape. I didn't want to explain what Turner had done. I didn't want to talk about how a young man smart enough to go to a university as prestigious as Stanford could also be as vicious as to attack an unconscious girl behind a dumpster.

But then, I did. I am raising a young man. I wanted him to see me angry, astounded, and affected by the case.

My son can go toe-to-toe with me about how unfair it is that I limit his screen time. He can go full-blast pre-teen when I ask him to clean up the dog poop in the backyard. He can roll his eyes so far that I wonder if they'll return to their proper position in their sockets. He is, most definitely, an adolescent.

But he has an amazing heart when it comes to people and emotion. And I am grateful.

Even still, I needed him to know that the culture in which he lives goes far beyond boys trying to impress each other with locker-room talk. That middle school boys are not far enough away from college-age boys. That losing sight of people as human beings means you risk losing your own humanity.

I've talked about elements of the case with him. About a young woman who drank too much and a young man who took too much from her. About her being passed out behind a dumpster. About her letter to the court at sentencing. About what Turner's father wrote in defense of his son's behavior.

Tonight, I read Joe Biden's open letter to the victim, out loud to @. The kid reads novels like they're pamphlets, but I wanted him to hear it out loud. I wanted him to hear things like


"you were failed by anyone who dared to question
this one clear and simple truth:
Sex without consent is rape.
Period.
It is a crime."

and 


"We will speak to change the culture on our college campuses
— a culture that continues to ask the wrong questions:
What were you wearing?

Why were you there?
 What did you say?
How much did you drink?
Instead of asking: Why did he think he had license to rape?"



I was reading an article by a public defender in Oakland, who talked about how her clients get much more harsh penalties, even for victimless crimes. He asked me to send it to him. He wanted to read the whole thing for himself. From there he can follow links to see more, including the victim's statement, in all its detail. And he probably will. It will affect him. It will give him a perspective he'll hopefully never experience himself.

I am grateful that I am raising an empathetic young man. I'm glad that he reacts in disbelief that Turner could do something like this, with near impunity. I'm glad that he asks why the sentence is so light when it could have been real. I'm glad he has an opinion, questions, disbelief. I'm proud that he wants to know more.

I am raising a young man. And I am proud of the young man I am raising.