The Sunflower Project
Helping survivors turn towards the sun

Letters to Survivors: A Blog

The Myth of Progress: A Reaction to Brock Turner

Rape will not escape you. If you are a survivor, I do not need to tell you this—you’ve already figured it out for yourself. But for the fortunate people who have not had to experience it: rape will not escape you. It is a stamp, a brand, and you cannot wash it off, cannot will it to fade, and will not ever be able to forget it. No matter how hard you try.


In my experience, the only way I am able to turn my past into something I can manage is by creating art out of it. Some survivors share this with me, others have found their own way of coping. However, regardless of the image of healing we present to the world, we will never be rid of that wretched brand on our backs.


What angers me the most about the Brock Turner case is the idea that even though he only got six months in jail, the reaction of social media shaming him and his family is somehow proof of “progress” of which we all need to be aware and appreciative. This is disheartening, to say the least. That is like saying even though 50 people were killed in a gay bar in Orlando, the fact that the whole online world is mourning for them shows “progress” in the fight against homophobia. It most obviously does not, and neither does the reaction to the Brock Turner case. Real progress is not revealed through reactions to tragic events. Real progress is shown through the absence of these events ever happening in the first place.


Real progress would look like education in schools, talking to both boys and girls about consent and the difference between sex and rape. Real progress would look like the words “rape” and “sexual assault” not being taboo but a topic we are all able to discuss with our children in the same manner we would drug abuse or drinking. Real progress would look like a mandatory course in all colleges with curriculum surrounding what a healthy relationship looks like, what consent really is, and what to do when you see something that shouldn’t be going on. Real progress would be Brock Turner never doing what he did, because he was taught to be better than that.


Rape is rape, period. I don’t care if you were intoxicated (would we let a murderer off the hook if he was drunk?), and I especially don’t care if you are white and privileged and “educated” (although in my book, he’s about as uneducated as you could possibly get). Rape is rape, and it will never escape that woman, just like it will never escape me. Survivors of rape all have one thing in common: we’ve all received a life sentence. A sentence to mourn, to question ourselves and doubt our worth, to hate our perpetrators and to fight hating ourselves. I’ll tell you one thing for sure, I would much rather go to jail than have been raped. Going to jail would be getting off easy, in comparison. Jail sentences expire. The repercussions of being raped are eternal.


 This country has not made progress, at least not to my standard. If anything, the Brock Turner case proves just that—we still have a long, long way to go. I will not be satisfied until the statistics behind rape have diminished almost to the point of of inexistence, and when, in the rare case it does happen, the sentence is much longer and absolutely non negotiable.


However, while this case has proven to the world that we are still amateur in our dealings with rape, survivors cannot lose hope. The only way to win this battle is to stick together and fight with all our might until there is no one left to fight because nobody is being raped. Until then, simply hoping is the least we can do.


To all the survivors out there: do not ever, ever, lose hope.

Leah Zeiger