When he was sentenced, prosecutors argued that he deserved six years in jail given the violent nature of the attack and his lack of remorse. A judge however, thought that because he was drunk and young, prison would alter the course of his life. He said, " I think you have to take the whole picture in terms of what impact imprisonment has on a specific individual's life."
The judge's thinking was correct in understanding that time behind bars is life-altering. It SHOULD change the perpetrators life.
Much has been said and written about the sentence Turner received and has now "completed," and I doubt my words will add to that conversation. Instead, I was reminded of a post written in the aftermath of the sentencing. It brings up what has emerged as my greatest fear as a survivor of my own traumatic rape.
Kyle Suhan penned a post as a husband to a college rape survivor. I encourage you to read his words - they are powerful and poignant. That post can be found here. In his post, he discusses how his wife's body has not let her forget the trauma she endured and how that trauma rears it's ugly head from time to time. They never know when it's coming - but it does come.
That's the fear I have.
As we've entered September, the month that ushers in a new football season, the return of all things pumpkin and little foretastes of sweater weather, I'm also reminded now of just how much has changed for me. Not that "forgetting" is really an option. You see on September 1, I start my subconscious countdown to September 10 - the day everything changed. I try to remember that it wasn't so much the day, but rather the night that changed me, but that doesn't help. Invitations to events are met in my mind with - will this be fun, or will I be distracted. And, if I'm distracted, will my friends care. Will I forever be that distracted friends who is a bit of a downer - especially in the early part of September?
It never really goes away - the memory. Sure, it's suppressed. Most days, my normal doesn't include memories of that night, things that trigger thoughts of what happened or the way my life has changed. I still To be fair, I reached into my purse and my hand grabbed the taser I purchased in the months after my rape. I was reminded that the batteries in it were dead and needed to be recharged - progress, I think. When I first purchased it, I had to have it in my hand ready to go every time I walked from the car to my apartment or from the restaurant with friends to the car alone. If I was alone solo, I had to be ready. Today, I'm still very much aware of my surroundings, but the nearly paralyzing fear has subsided - except in September. As the 10th of September approaches, my stomach twists into knots more often and I'm faced with the dichotomy of wanting to be social with friends and meet new people and enjoy new experiences with wanting to be inside a safe space where I can feel secure.
But that trepidation surrounding my security, my uneasiness in early September isn't enduring. It hasn't' burrowed deep in my soul like another side effect of my survivorship has. Suhan's piece touches on that deeply held worry that has taken root in the innermost part of my soul. He mentions that even 13 years after his wife was raped, her body remembers the violation even when her mind doesn't.
Will that be my fate?
I'd been saving myself for marriage before I was raped. Now, my only experience with sex is tangled up with memories of a knife at my neck, my inability to escape and my dominion over my own body rejected. My consent didn't matter a bit.
There's a part of a person that breaks having endured what I have. I worry that no amount of time or healing will ever put the humpty dumpty pieces of my soul back together. I worry that when the time comes for my eventual husband and I to reach that level of intimacy that something will snap inside me and all the fear and anger and sadness will explode from deep within - places I'm actively working to bury.
Friends tell me that there's a man who'll love me - the real, honest, broken, in-repair versions of me. And deep down, I want to believe them. I was single when my rape occurred. Most days, I'm OK with my singleness. I've got great friends, a great job and I'm leading a life that I'm enjoying. But there's that seed of doubt - that seed the Devil planted that tells me that because of what happened, there's a brokenness that no man will want to enter into with me. That when those conversations happen - and they will - with the man who I'll want to give myself to, he'll run away. I fear that the wounds will re-open in ways I can't predict and might last the rest of my life. To be alone, forever, is the deepest insecurity that remains for me. I fear that my baggage is too great, that I'm too broken. That I'll never fully heal, and that no man willing to walk alongside me in this journey and be patient with me.
I realize that I'm not quite two years past my rape and the dust has barely settled from my trial. In the grand scheme of things, I'm barely a step into this journey as a survivor. Patience is a virtue I've never really attained. I'd rather be done with the whole business of moving on and consider myself "moved on." Life doesn't exactly work according to my plans, however. Each day many more women enter the survivors club. I see their accounts in the black and white ink of police reports and my heart breaks all over again. For them. For me.
To come back to Brock Turner. His sentence amounts to not much more than an "oh what did you do with your summer?" type story. For his victim, for all victims - we don't get to simply resume our lives as if nothing happened. There are those who argue that because he'll have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, that somehow his life is changed. And perhaps, to some tiny extent, that will haunt him for the rest of his life. But that haunting pit in the stomach of his victim isn't likely to ever completely dull. With the news of his release from jail, my mind drifts to that of the woman who so captivated the country with her words. I hope that she continues to feel into her strength, and that it heals her wounds - as much as the wounds of rape can ever truly be healed.
Turner's victim is an inspiration, and Suhan's story gives me hope. And as the 10th nears closer, I'm fighting like hell to focus on the positive and not dwell in that pit developing in my stomach.