Roxanne Jones: We must act and call for legislative initiatives to protect sex crime victims
Society too often leaves women and young girls vulnerable and uninformed, she says
Editor’s Note: Roxanne Jones, a founding editor of ESPN Magazine and former vice president at ESPN, has worked as a producer and as a reporter at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. She was named a 2010 Woman of the Year by Women in Sports and Events, is a co-author of “Say It Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete,” and CEO of the Push Marketing Group. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Ideally, we will follow the lead of Fu, who showed us that sometimes our most powerful act is just to stand proudly in all of our womanhood, being our authentic, beautiful selves. Talking about a little thing like your period. Changing the world.
Brock Turner, the convicted rapist, is a good boy with an “easygoing personality that endears him to almost everyone he meets,” said his father in a letter to the courts. A judge agreed and last week Brock, now 21, became a free man. Out of a California county jail after serving three months – 90 days – for a six month sentence for raping an unconscious woman last year. The former Stanford University swimming star must register as a sex offender and will serve out his three-year probation and live close to his family in Ohio, where he is a native of Oakwood, a suburb near Dayton.
Turner’s victim: Well, she’s still trying to put her life back together after being slut shamed in court. Privilege is powerful. It’s dangerous when left unchecked.
Nate Parker, the brilliant producer of the upcoming film “Birth of a Nation” and former star wrestler at Penn State, where athletes stand on the highest of pedestals, was acquitted of raping an unconscious woman in 2001. And since his rape story resurfaced, Parker and his fans have been going out of their way to defend his character and urging us to support his film.
He’s a good man, his fans say, a loving father of four daughters. Stop trying to bring a good black man down, they say – an offensive but familiar refrain in the black community when our good men do bad and black women are expected to take a back seat in the fight for equality.
Parker’s accuser: Sadly, she had no life to put back together, she committed suicide in 2012 after years of struggling with the emotional fallout. “I think the ghosts continued to haunt her,” her brother told Variety last month.
This isn’t about race, or privilege. It’s about decency and gender equality. It’s time to shut down those who profess to want justice while making excuses for the inexcusable, for men who prey on and abuse and violate women. Privilege breeds hypocrisy and it has corrupted our justice system.
Privilege protects superpredators, like Daniel Holtzclaw , the Oklahoma cop who hid behind his shield for three years as he raped 13 poor and vulnerable black women from ages 17 to 57. He was sentenced to 263 years after one brave women stood up and told her story and helped other victims testify. Holtzclaw still professes his innocence.
Turner’s father is not the first to defend a deviant son. Likewise, too many mothers will close their eyes, knowing their child is being abused by a boyfriend or family member.
In response, society too often leaves women and young girls vulnerable and uninformed. Overused clichés like: “No means no,” which sound empowering at first, are good in theory but can be easily disputed in court, especially when heavy drinking is involved by both parties and the legal definition of consent is often unclear and varies state by state.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, women ages 18-24 who are college students are three times more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence. Females of the same age who are not enrolled in college are four times more likely. On average, there are 288,820 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States.
So clearly, it’s time to spout more than slick slogans. We must act and call for legislative initiatives to protect sex crime victims. We should listen to and support groups such as #UltraViolet and #BlackLivesMatter that are working actively toward reforms to change sentencing laws and help to weed out corrupt officers who victimize women of color.
In California, UltraViolet, a community-based women’s rights group, has been lobbying for Assembly Bill 2888, which would require mandatory prison sentences and prohibit probation in cases like Turner’s.
The bill, if signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, would close a loophole in state law that currently calls for different sentences in cases where the sexual assault victim was unconscious or intoxicated during the attack.
Act now, or keep making excuses. It’s your choice. But pray it’s never your daughter who reads in the paper one day how she was found naked and unconscious one cold night behind a dumpster and raped by a nice boy with a winning smile.
Pray that you never have to look into her eyes and explain why she doesn’t really deserve justice because she’s just a girl.