Amid news of Brock Turner’s release from a California prison, protesters armed with rifles and signs reading “If I rape Brock will I only do 3 months?” and “Shoot your local rapist,” lined up outside the Turners’ Ohio home last week. Turner received a six-month sentence after being found guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman at Stanford University, but was released after a short three months due to good behavior. Although well-intentioned, the violent nature of the protest, paired with its misconceptions about sexual assault, adopts a dangerous perspective outside the bounds of the rule of law.
Throughout the trial, Turner continually argued the rape was to be blamed on alcohol and college party culture. It’s no surprise that in response, Stanford University changed its alcohol policy, banning hard liquor at all on-campus parties. Not only does this move imply that Stanford is allying with Turner’s argument that alcohol was responsible for the rape, but it also deflects some of the blame on to the victim, who had been drinking as well. The protesters were justified in their anger, but not in their actions.
Rally organizer Micah Naziri demonstrated flawed logic when he told The Guardian, “The number one reason why we had this armed protest was to make a militant feminist statement in favor of self-defense of would-be rape victims.” Saying that rapes would not occur if victims could defend themselves is similar to saying that rapes could be prevented if girls refrained from drinking. Both ways of thinking pit the crime on the victim, and both ways of thinking are grossly uninformed about the actual causes of rape: lack of clarity about consent, low prosecution of sexual assault and a history of university culture not protecting victims of sexual assault. These are just some of many potential reasons why rapists feel empowered to rape. The mob is pushing an inaccurate agenda, while also crossing the line between peaceful protest and unruly vigilantism.
Though it’s appalling and shameful that Turner only served three months for his crime, the fact of the matter is that he did so completely in line with our justice system. The mob outside his house, armed with rifles and signs demanding violence, sends a very clear and dangerous message: the mob has the authority. We the people are, to a certain extent, in charge of holding our justice system accountable. But it is important to distinguish between holding the courts accountable and blatantly disregarding the law. Threatening brutality only places us in the same group of people as Brock Turner.
The concern of sexual assault is very real on all college campuses, including NYU. We have the same duty as the protestors: to promote discussion and knowledge about consent, to protect and empower the victims of sexual assault and to hold our institution and criminal justice system accountable — only without the lawless uproar.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, September 12 print edition. Email Riya Patil at [email protected]