Article by Alexa Doiron
College students across the nation have been watching as Stanford swimmer Brock Turner faced trial after his accusations of rape. In June, Turner was given a small sentence of six months from Judge Aaron Persky. The case has the country choosing sides and finally taking a hard look at what is perceived as “rape” by our laws.
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The family and friends who wrote controversial letters in defense of Turner. Leslie Rasmussen, a childhood friend of Turner, wrote a letter to the judge in which she blames instances of campus rape on political correctness. “I don’t think it’s fair to base the fate of the next 10+ years of his life on the decision of a girl who doesn’t remember anything but the amount she drank to press charges against him,” wrote Rasmussen.
Sexual assault survivors nationwide have become outraged and began campaigns inspired by what they view as an injustice to victims around the country. One campaign that has been gaining a lot of notice lately is the “It Happens” series of photos. The pictures are raw and show women in the midst of a sexual assault in attention-grabbing positions. The photographer Yana Mazurkevich created the series after being outraged about the Brock Turner cases. Models pose in various situations next to a large phrase saying “It Happens____.” The photos are then paired next to quotations from emails sent to the Current Solutions team from sexual assault victims. These ads bring a jarring view of sexual assault and have made the victims become more of a reality to the general public.
Mazurkevich has also created another photo series that is making waves called the “Dear Brock Turner” campaign. These photos also depict sexual assault victims as they stand exposed in just their underwear and bra, covered in a splattering of colors while a model posing as their attacker holds them in hostile positions. What is really disturbing about these photos, though, are the white boards they are holding that have the reasons for their sexual attacks written on them. The boards bear unnerving reasons for these victims’ attacks ranging from “I was too friendly,” to “My skirt was too short.”
Roanoke College is not a campus without sexual assault controversy as well. Last year, the students became activists on the frontline of college-based sexual assault when one male student was acquitted in court after a female student accused him of initiating sex with her against her will while she was under the influence. Students either fought for his right to return to school or they signed an online petition asking that the school not allow him to return to campus.
The school has been taking measures to prevent these instances from occurring on campus such as holding events like “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” or holding self-defense classes for women. As female students see these trials in the news, it is only natural for their concern to be heightened.
“Outside of campus and living my daily life, I am a concerned human,” said Junior, Victoria Driver. “I feel like the severity of sexual assault in general is being undermined and that worries me.”
Universities across the board have had to start implementing more preventive measures than ever before as cases such as Brock Turner’s are becoming instances of public concerns. These cases involve so much gray area that it has become difficult for the law to define rape in certain cases. Then, there is the question of honesty in these victim’s stories. After the scandals that have bubbled up like wildfire, it becomes difficult to believe every accusation of sexual assault. As a society, we are facing the difficult task of deciding where exactly to draw the line.
The fiasco of the Rolling Stone article is still fresh in people’s minds. Here was a supposedly credible source that entirely lost all believability after the public discovered that their article about a female student who was raped by fraternity members at UVa was found to be false. There are many other instances such as the Duke Lacrosse sexual assault scandal that was also found to be a false accusation.
“Situations such as Brock Turner’s are tough. Brock Turner is a real and serious situation, but you want to question what happened that night because of cases such as Duke Lacrosse and the Rolling Stone article. As a victim, when your honesty and character are being questioned it isn’t fair. But unfortunately it is the few fabricated cases that take away a piece of credibility from the real victims,” said Driver.
With all the different ways people are taking to the media to either fight for harsher punishments or argue for the accused, it can be easy to get lost in the crowd. The fact is that sexual assault has become a rising controversy and with the results of the Brock Turner case, the public in danger of these attacks can only help but wonder how seriously our governments and institutions are taking the situation.