An Alarm Bell is Ringing
When I last checked the Internet, the now-famous letter from a survivor of rape on the Stanford University campus had been shared and viewed more than 9 million times! Both brutal and courageously candid in its detail, the 13-page letter has been shared on hundreds of social media sites —and even read aloud by a CNN broadcaster on the air. It’s an unforgettable read.
It’s also an alarm bell that is ringing all over the world—reminding us that the days of shame and blame around survivors of sexual assault must come to an end. It’s a wake-up call that was long overdue.
We understand the grief that both families are experiencing, but we’re disturbed that the father of the perpetrator would suggest that his son might be an appropriate ambassador to talk to other college students about the “dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.” In fact, his son has yet to acknowledge or accept responsibility for his actions. And in our experience, there is no healing without the truth.
This is serious trauma. And despite America’s long tradition to blame and then rehabilitate its heroes, we must be rational about the devastating and long-lasting repercussions that these events are going to have. Let’s not confuse remorse with expertise. Perpetrators of sexual assault require appropriate punitive action, intensive counseling and education, as well as time, distance, and reflection before they should consider stepping back into the arena to try to influence others. But most of all, they need to acknowledge what they did.
As the eloquent survivor concluded in her letter, “And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. So never stop fighting, I believe you.”