Life

Stanford rape survivor pens empowering new essay on sexual assault and victim blaming

Published

In March this year, Brock Turner was found guilty of sexually assaulting a fellow college student, now known by the pseudonym Emily Doe, as she lay unconscious behind a dumpster following a campus party.

Despite the harrowing details of the case being laid bare, Turner was given a lenient sentence of six months, serving just three of them behind bars before being released in September.

But where the legal justice system has failed Emily Doe, her own powerful words, initially released in the form of her impact statement read to Turner at the trial, have changed the conversation surrounding rape, sexual assault, victim blaming and consent on a global level.

Now, as she accepts an award for Woman of the Year, the survivor has written another incredibly powerful essay on life in the aftermath of the trial.

Published by Glamour, Doe begins her piece: “From the beginning, I was told I was a best case scenario. I had forensic evidence, sober un­biased witnesses, a slurred voice mail, police at the scene. I had everything, and I was still told it was not a slam dunk. I thought, if this is what having it good looks like, what other hells are survivors living?”

The essay recounts the moment Judge Aaron Persky handed out the six-month sentence, with Doe noting how she felt immediately powerless in the face of such lenient repercussions.



“I yelled half of my statement. So when it was quickly announced that he’d be receiving six months, I was struck silent. Immediately I felt embarrassed for trying, for being led to believe I had any influence.

“The violation of my body and my being added up to a few months out of his summer. The judge would release him back to his life, back to the 40 people who had written him letters from Ohio. I began to panic; I thought, this can’t be the best case ­scenario. If this case was meant to set the bar, the bar had been set on the floor.”

Following the publishing of her impact statement on Buzzfeed, Doe says she began receiving messages of support from all around the globe. Along with US Vice President Joe Biden writing her an open letter, Doe says she also got inspiring notes of gratitude and encouragement from people in Botswana, India and Ireland, all of which helped to change the way she viewed her pain.

“In the very beginning of it all in 2015, one comment managed to lodge harmfully inside me: 'Sad. I hope my daughter never ends up like her.'

“I absorbed that statement. Ends up. As if we end somewhere, as if what was done to me marked the completion of my story. Instead of being a role model to be looked up to, I was a sad example to learn from, a story that caused you to shield your daughter’s eyes and shake your heads with pity.

“But when my letter was published, no one turned away. No one said I’d rather not look, it’s too much, or too sad. Everyone pushed through the hard parts, saw me fully to the end, and embraced every feeling.”



Doe also reflects on the vital importance of changing the way society views victims, and the way in which women are treated when it comes to rape and sexual assault.

“If you think the answer is that women need to be more sober, more civil, more upright, that girls must be better at exercising fear, must wear more layers with eyes open wider, we will go nowhere,” she writes. “When Judge Aaron Persky mutes the word justice, when Brock Turner serves one month for every felony, we go nowhere.

“When we all make it a priority to avoid harming or violating another human being, and when we hold accountable those who do, when the campaign to recall this judge declares that survivors deserve better, then we are going somewhere.

“Victims are not victims, not some fragile, sorrowful aftermath. Victims are survivors, and survivors are going to be doing a hell of a lot more than surviving.”

Emily Doe has chosen to remain anonymous, you can read her full essay on glamour.com.