It would be wrong to say violence ends when you turn the television off or act as if injustice didn’t exist anymore, but if you reflect back on 2016 so far, one of the biggest topics that often dominated the news and blogosphere was the high frequency of assaults on college campuses around the country. In a place where many young adults begin to learn who they are and who they want to be while enjoying a comfortable freedom and safety among their peers discovered freedom and safety could not always be guaranteed.
One of the most discussed topics surrounding sexual assault has been the People v. Turner case. Brock Turner was an undergraduate student at Stanford University in Northern California when he was apprehended by two Swedish international students who witnessed Turner sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.
The students who stopped Turner from continuing to assault the young woman stated that they intervened because they could tell that the woman was clearly unconscious. Turner was then subsequently arrested, charged and indicted on two counts of felony assault and one count of attempted rape. However, it was the consequences that Turner faced for his actions that have upset many.
After a jury found Turner guilty of assault and attempted rape Judge Aaron Persky of the Santa Clara County Superior Court sentenced Turner to a meek six months confinement in the Santa Clara County jail followed by three months of probation. After serving three months in the Santa Clara County jail Turner was released on good behavior. The lenient sentence that was given to Turner upset and confused many people worldwide.
A day after Turner was handed his sentence, Buzzfeed published the full transcript of the powerful statement that the now 23-year-old victim, who remains unnamed, gave in court. In the statement, the victim explains her thoughts on privilege in the justice system and the lenient sentences that are often given to people convicted of assault. The letter has since gone viral and has been viewed millions of times on Buzzfeed.
CNN Anchor, Ashleigh Banfield, recited parts of the victim’s open letter word for word during her live broadcast the day after Turner was handed his sentence. The seasoned anchor choked up during parts of the letter. Others have also gone on to express their thoughts on the matter, including Vice President Joe Biden and Lexie Wilcox, a beauty blogger, who shared her thoughts on the case in a personal YouTube video.
In response to the crimes that occurred, many schools became stricter in their approach to preventing sexual assault and harassment of their students, but the dialogue between college students and the college administrations goes back and forth between doing too little to address the issue versus doing too much.
Dan, 22, a college student from New Jersey, weighed in on his opinion regarding campus safety:
“I mean, our campus has a service where you can be escorted from building to building by a policeman at night hours if you feel unsafe. I think it’s a good program to be in place, but as campus becomes more “safe” there’s a lot more rules and regulations in place, which, some may argue, ruin the college experience.”
Dan doesn’t believe anyone should feel unsafe when they’re at school and believes a balance can be attained. But, he is also familiar with what happens to a campus once it sets more “authoritarian” rules in the name of safety. He echoes the sentiment on many student’s minds: “Do you want to feel safe, or do you want to feel free?” Achieving that kind of balance ultimately lies in cooperation between the school and its students. Schools demand students follow new rules and protocols, namely in discouraging alcohol and drug use and there are consequences for not following the rules.
Hollie, 23, a recent college graduate, has a serious passion in combating sexual assault:
“I was assaulted on vacation in my college years and that inspired me when I became a Resident Assistant for two years to do what I could to not only prevent, but also to address it as an open topic. Right now, many schools are facing media attention for sexual violence, but we all know this didn’t just happen overnight and it doesn’t only happen at specific schools, nor are all assaults related to drugs and alcohol. We live in a time that is very difficult for older generations to wrap their heads around—we have more sexual liberation and we also have a hookup culture. As an RA, I noticed this was very confusing to newer and younger students because there is such a stigma around party behavior.”
It is important to note, like many other students, Hollie doesn’t think an over-focusing on alcohol and social policies necessarily solves everything: “it tells people to hide what is happening and not be open about it.” Her advice? “Think to yourself—when I am 24, who do I want to be? What choices will I have want to have made? Choose to speak up and speak out, whether it is to a peer or a professor.”
By David Grom and Taryn Graham | Featured Image: Markus Spiske/Raumrot