The Brock Turner appeal: proof that sexual assault still isn’t being taken seriously enough

By Elizabeth Mohr

Brock Turner, the former Stanford student who was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman in 2016, recently made headlines again when his attorney, Eric S. Multhaup, attempted to overturn Turner’s convictions. The court’s initial sentence of six months in jail and three years probation was already considered too lenient and sparked outrage nationwide, leading to a movement to recall Judge Aaron Persky, which was finally successful in June 2018. While the court eventually voted to uphold Turner’s convictions on August 8th, the case when viewed alongside the #MeToo movement continues to shed light on a problem that should no longer be occurring in 2018: sexual violence against women.

We can safely deduce that we live in a society where acts of a misogynistic nature prevail.

A recent report published by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) explores the connection between misogyny and white supremacy, arguing that misogyny should be recognised as “a dangerous and underestimated component of extremism“. The report includes a short exploration of the victimhood narrative of white men that is of importance to conversations about sexual violence against women. It discusses the threat that misogynist groups such as MRA (Men’s Rights Activists) or Incels (involuntary celibates) feel at women’s increasingly powerful position within society. It also pays special attention to Donald Trump’s election as well as his success in denying sexual misconduct allegations, which the ADL refers to as “a glorious vindication of the misogynist worldview“.

This example of Donald Trump is not only critical in fuelling misogynistic beliefs but also, in the heat of the #MeToo movement, sending mixed signals about how seriously sexual violence is dealt with if the President of the United States can get away with it. Turner’s lawyer’s argument that the court ruling should be appealed because all Turner engaged in was “outercourse“ is reminiscent of Turner’s father’s 2016 claims that his conviction was too harsh because he had only wanted “20 minutes of pleasure”. Both men objectify the victim in favour of the male perpetrator, a tendency that is present in the voices of misogynist groups, as the ADL presents.

We live in the midst of a juxtaposition between #MeToo and misogyny.

Considering the stance of the ADL, we can safely deduce that we live in a society where acts of a misogynistic nature prevail. The concept of misogyny is not isolated to extremist MRA and Incel groups, but is represented in the day-to-day, by former film directors and white privileged athletes — a cruel truth which movements like #MeToo are trying to fight.

It is for this reason that the decision to send Turner to jail for six months was faced with such outrage across the country. Such a lenient punishment for such a horrible crime sends signals that in our society sexual assault is not taken as seriously as it should be.

Even more importantly, whether intercourse or outercourse, infringement on a woman’s personal space — and anyone’s personal space for that matter — should not be tolerated. Although it is promising to see that Turner’s attempted appeal was not accepted and the #MeToo movement similarly bringing cases into the open, many cases continue to remain outside of the public realm and it is these unreported ones that should not be forgotten. According to the statistics from the 2015 National Crime Victimization Survey, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that 2/3 of sexual assaults still go unreported.

With a president who openly demonises women alongside an ever-growing movement of people fighting sexual violence, we live in the midst of a juxtaposition between #MeToo and misogyny. Cases like those of Harvey Weinstein or Brock Turner are emblems of the wrongdoings of oppressors, and a prime example of why the struggle to end sexual violence continues.

Image by Women’s eNews via Flickr


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