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Sexual assault has been and continues to be the number one underreported crime in the United States. In fact, “only 344 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to the police, meaning about two out of three cases go unreported” (Bureau of Justice Statistics). Many women who fall victim to sexual assault do not feel the importance of reporting the crime because of the failed justice system. Evidence is not taken seriously, victims are blamed for their perpetrators actions, and sexism that prevails over the hard evidence prevented in sexual assault cases. These reasons continuously stop women from taking the next step towards justice after being sexually assaulted. This is a massive problem as there are many movements pushing for education on the subject, each one encouraging victims of sexual assault to speak up. Yet why would a young girl or women speak up about their assault if it is next to impossible to have confidence that the justice system will provide justice for the crime? All of these issues are transparent when observing the recent Brock Turner case, a perpetrator who was let out early, after only serving half of his six months, a sentence too lenient to begin with. People need to stop taking guesses on why so many cases go unreported and observe the obvious, the failed justice system. Women underreport instances of sexual assault because of the constant failure of the justice system to take reports seriously, as evidenced by the Brock Turner case.
Blaming the victim and “slut shaming” are two extremely common themes in sexual assault cases that contribute to the number of unreported sexual assault cases. Sexual assault is constantly blamed on drinking and promiscuity, the idea that the victim “was asking for it”. Examples include, drinking irresponsibly, the clothes that a women wears, or how a victim could put themselves in that situation. Sexual assault is defined as, “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient” (U.S. Department of Justice). It is important to stress the words “without explicit consent”. If a women was “asking for it” the act would not be classified as sexual assault, and any other actions besides a verbal yes are not considered consent. In the Brock Turner case, Turner and his defense repeatedly attempted to blame the assault on alcohol and the victim was asked about her drinking and partying habits multiple times during the trial. The victim responded with saying, “We were both drunk, the difference is I did not take off your pants and underwear, touch you inappropriately, and run away” (The Guardian). Along with blaming Jane Doe’s social life, blame was also casted on Stanford’s party culture. In fact, two months after Brock Turner’s sentence, Stanford put a ban on hard alcohol on on-campus parties along with a limit on beer and wine (CNN). This policy change conveys that Stanford must agree that alcohol is to blame for Brock Turner’s actions. Instead of blaming the misuse of alcohol and “party culture”, there should be more thorough education on consent for students and schools should actually hold perpetrators accountable for their conduct.
As well as victim blaming, the justice system also frequently prioritizes men over women in sexual assault cases, painting them in a better light then they deserve. This is yet another theme found in the Brock Turner case. Sexual Assault permanently changes a women’s life and can cause prolonging struggles. The assault can haunt a victim for the rest of their life, along with the rage of seeing her perpetrator not be penalized for his actions. First off, Turner has already been addressed as “Stanford’s varsity swimmer” in almost every reporting of the case. This shines Turner in a favorable light, creating bias, while the victim was named “Unconscious, intoxicated woman” (Independent). The way the perpetrator and victim are named already presents sexism. Brock Turner was spared the “hardship” of the sentence he deserves because of his “bright future”, although being guilty of more than just one case of sexual assault. This is a very common theme in sexual assault cases. The justice system focuses on what the defendant has to lose rather than what the victim has already lost after the assault. Thus, granting Brock Turner and short sentence and probation, so he would not have to face hardship, and because alcohol was also to blame. Turner had already put the victim through “hardship” and needs to be held responsible. The victim lives through more hardship, as she will be haunted from the assault for most of her life. What victims need is a stronger support system, even women need to support each other more. A woman, a longtime friend of Brock wrote in a letter about the case, “I don’t think it’s fair to base the fate of the next 10-plus years of his life on the decision of the girl who doesn’t remember anything but the amount she drank to press charges against him” (Independent). It is absurd that even a woman could blame Jane Doe for the assault. Women need to be on the same side in order to fight the sexism placed on women in sexual assault cases. Without support towards each other and from the justice system, cases will continue to go underreported and the justice system will continue to fail victims.
The justice system frequently fails women, leaving very little confidence that perpetrators of sexual assault will receive the justice they deserve. The problem is so severe that most women no longer report sexual assault crimes. Victims are always encouraged to speak up, but how can they when evidence is rarely taken seriously and women are treated with sexism and blamed throughout the cases. The recent Brock Turner case highlights all of these reoccurring patterns taking place in sexual assault court cases, especially victim blaming. In order for this to change, and for women to be confident in reporting assault, men need to stop being prioritized and the obvious evidence can no longer be ignored; no factors besides whether or not consent was given in the situation should be used against a victim.
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