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Rape is Not a Spelling Error

There is certainly no shortage of blog posts out there about Brock Turner and his terrible crime. Writers far more prolific than myself have dissected the entire case, have shamed the judge Aaron Persky, have expressed outrage at Brock's father's statements. So my addition to the pile is going to be nothing unique, but still I feel compelled to throw my two cents in.

There are many reasons to be angry about this story; the latest in a never ending series of disappointments when it comes to our culture and the way we handle rape. But I am a writer. I focus on words. And there is one word that keeps coming up that really drives me crazy.


As in Brock Turner made a "mistake." 

He got drunk, found an equally drunk, mostly unconscious woman, and oopsy, accidentally raped her.  Cause you know, alcohol.

Here is the definition of the word mistake: 

an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong.

Rape is not a miscalculation. Missing your turn on the freeway is a miscalculation.

Rape is not a misunderstanding. It is not a slip. It is not a blunder.

Hanging your queen in a chess match is a blunder. Rape is something different entirely.

Listen I have been drunk in my life. Very, very drunk. Throwing up on random street corners in New Orleans drunk. And I even did some things in college while intoxicated that I would consider "mistakes". 

And my friends at the time, who were also very drunk, did some stupid stuff as well. Like the time my buddy left the bar and wandered off through the meat packing district in the middle of the night because he was "walking home".  That was a mistake. 2am pizza, always a mistake. There were drunk arguments, drunk kisses, dancing country on the top of a bar called the Village Idiot, which thankfully no longer exists. All the kind of stupid messy things college kids get into when drinking.

At no point did any of my friends rape anyone. Why? Because they weren't rapists. They didn't kill anyone either. Because they weren't murderers.

Sure alcohol can make you lose your inhibitions and do things like run naked through a parking lot or jump into the ocean in January. But forcing yourself sexually on an unconscious woman is not a mistake. It is a crime. It is a violent attack on another human being that no amount of drunkenness can make any different. You don't rape someone because you are drunk. You rape someone because for some reason, deep down, a part of you believes that this behavior is ok. Because you think you are entitled to a little fun. Because whatever, its no big deal. Because the line between consensual and non-consensual sex is kind of blurry for you. Because it turns out that actually, drunk or not, you are a rapist.

Who is to blame for this? Is it your parents? Is is society? Is it college itself, an environment that often seems to encourage drunken stupidity just as much as it encourages improving the mind. And does this act mean you cannot learn and change? Does it mean you are a horrible person who deserves to die? 

No but a slightly longer prison sentence wouldn't hurt.

Listen, I am sure Brock Turner regrets what he did to that girl and I hope he grows up to be a wonderful man. But right now, at this moment in time, he is a rapist. He is not a misguided college swimmer who made a mistake. 

College students get drunk and hook up all the time. Sometimes they cheat on their girlfriends and boyfriends in the process, and when they wake up the next morning with cotton mouth and a pounding headache they will regret everything they did. They will text their significant other with a desperate pleading "I am so sorry. I made a mistake." 

But there is no amount of alcohol that can cloud your mind enough to suddenly make using an unconscious woman as a blow up doll ok. 

By the way, in case you were wondering I am one of those people who believes in both sides of the coin. I certainly think we need to teach our boys about consent. But as the mother of a someday college-aged daughter, I am sure as hell going to teach her about what to watch out for. I am going to warn her about drinking too much. I am going to warn her about putting herself in a situation with a boy that will be difficult to extract herself from. Not because a woman who parties too hard is "asking to be raped", but because in the end the only person who can really protect my daughter is my daughter herself. 

Also by the time Maya gets to college she is going to be a black belt in like four different martial arts so I am not really worried about her.

But please, please stop saying this dude made a mistake. This was not a drunken hookup between two sloppy, giggling co-eds. This was not even a case of "she started kissing me but then she changed her mind"; still not a reason to rape but understandably confusing for everyone. No, this was just assault. No different than me punching you dead in the face and then claiming it was an accident. My arms, my fault. Your penis, your fault. Period.

Oh and while we are on this topic, can everyone please stop talking about what a great swimmer this dude was. It is insulting to all of us other athletes.

Speaking of which, I am going to get ready for jiu-jitsu class. I will try really, really hard not to make any "mistakes" on the way there. 


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