By TESSA CATE
My head whips around, giving me a good view of the street over my shoulder as I unchain my bike from the rack. It is late and I’m exposed, standing all by myself under the last significant light source I will see until I get home. I mount my bike and ride down to Sunken Road where the lighting is minimal and the street eerie.
I begin to pedal as quickly as my body will allow, turning down Franklin Street where I pedal even faster in a desperate attempt to get my bike to its rack and my body inside my house. By the time I reach my street, my heart is pounding and my mind already mapping out the steps necessary to get me through the door safely. I do not race to my front step for the fun of it; I race because I’m scared.
My fear originates in the fact that as a female college student, I am especially vulnerable. I put myself in uncomfortable situations every single day whether it is biking home from a meeting by myself at night or going out to a party with friends. Much of the fear I experience while placed in such situations revolves around a topic very prevalent in the lives of college-age women: sexual assault.
If you have scrolled through your Facebook newsfeed over the past week, you will have heard that Brock Turner has been released from jail, cutting his embarrassingly light sentence of six months into three. In what Turner’s father has referred to as “20 minutes of action,” Turner racked up multiple offenses and created a victim out of a girl whose only mistake was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
According to CNN, the former Stanford University student was “convicted in March of the intent to commit rape of an intoxicated/unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person and penetration of an unconscious person.”
The three-month-long sentence is a slap on the wrist compared to what Turner’s crime actually warrants as punishment. By shaving time off of an already brief run in jail, this country’s judicial system has made it clear that a university’s reputation as well as its student’s social and economic status is of higher importance than justice.
They have successfully conveyed that they hold more respect for a rapist and recently-registered sex offender than the life and feelings of a victim who can no longer live a day without being reminded of the violation and vulnerability she experienced.
The woman Turner assaulted in January 2015 did not ask to be violated. He picked her out because she was a vulnerable target, and the fact that his sentence in no way reflects the severity of his crime is disgraceful. This leniency conveys the message that sexual assault is acceptable, greatly contributing to the fear I feel while biking home alone at night.
The way this case has been handled makes it clear that this country’s judicial system is not fully dedicated to the people it was put in place to serve. The fact that a privileged, white male can commit such a heinous crime while the clear victim receives no justice instills even more fear in me than I thought possible.
This lack of justice leaves me unsettled and wondering how a culture, generally condemning of rape, could have failed so miserably. This lack of justice makes it clear that I cannot count on having something so basic as the law on my side if anything were to happen to me between walking out of my meeting and into my house.