Frequently young women sit in my office and share the painful details of being treated like objects by men who are often sociopaths or pedophiles or both. It is painful for us both in that room during those sessions and my job, in large part, is to help them carry that pain. To help them create a space where it is not quite so overwhelming and they can begin to make some sense of something that will never make any sense at all. Helping them do this will, with luck, make it easier and save them from carrying the full intensity of the abuse with them the rest of their lives. It is amazingly hard for me and unimaginable for them sometimes during those sessions. My dream is that some day I will no longer be needed.
Reading the story of the Brock Turner case has deeply affected me on two levels. First the 12-page letter from the victim (you can read it here) was one of the most eloquent and painful things I have ever read. She is both resilient and brilliant on a level that is rare. It affected me deeply even as someone who hears these stories far too frequently. I wept as I read her account. It was haunting and beautiful and she is amazing. Secondly, I read the father’s statement about his son being punished too harshly and this being only “20 minutes of his life.”
The point, Mr. Turner, is not that it was only 20 minutes of his life, but that it will change the rest of her life in horrible and unalterable ways. The point is that your son felt entitled to take what he wanted in that 20 minutes and that attitude was a lifetime in the making and will not likely change any time soon with a father who tries to minimize the pain of his victim.
As a father who has a daughter of 15, it saddens me that I have had to teach her to effectively protect herself and warn her that she does not live in a society that will protect her from men. I also have a son who will soon be 18 and I am proud that he got into a fight at school after hearing young men make horrible comments about things they have done and felt justified in doing. I am sad that he had to.
Our culture can change, but there is no sign that it is yet. When a young man can project his will onto someone in this way and violate her so horribly and then only get six months because the judge doesn’t want to ruin his life, I am left thinking we are nowhere near changing.
I have to be honest. As I write this, I have no idea how to change it. It seems the world is full of good people trying to do just that. Trying to raise awareness, trying to educate the judicial system about rape and sexual victimization, trying to make it a culture where these things are taken more seriously than being caught with an ounce of pot. It just doesn’t seem to be working.
I keep getting calls. I keep seeing women who walk in my office and tell their stories as if this was just something that happens to women. They don’t understand why it’s so hard to handle. I keep seeing them years after the assault dealing with the post traumatic states that bring it all back like it was happening again, right there, right then.
There is hope for them. PTSD is very treatable. But what has happened has happened and won’t ever go away completely. It is so common. And so sad.
I dream of the day that I won’t be able to see women for this trauma issue any more. Unfortunately, my work is likely to be necessary until we stop normalizing the objectification of women. Until we stop blaming the victim. Until then, I will be here, in my little office, trying to help these women through the trauma that has forever changed them and trying not to be physically ill when I hear the next parent of a young man who feels entitled say “It was only 20 minutes.”