The survivor of a high profile case of sexual assault at Stanford University committed by former freshman Brock Turner has exercised her right to anonymity, but she's been far from silent. “Even if the sentence is light, hopefully this will wake people up," she said when her statement to the courtroom was published and widely circulated online. "I want the judge to know that he ignited a tiny fire," she said, referencing Judge Aaron Persky's shockingly lenient sentence for Turner, which he has already served. "If anything, this is a reason for all of us to speak even louder.” Choosing to do so agin, she's written an essay in the pages of Glamour magazine under the pseudonym Emily Doe, a publication also recognizing her as a "Woman of the Year."
A recent college graduate in her early 20s visiting Stanford's campus to attend a party, Doe was assaulted by Turner after she lost consciousness. Her words in court directly addressed Turner, pulling no punches: "Future reference," she said, or rather, yelled according to the Glamour follow-up, "if you are confused about whether a girl can consent, see if she can speak an entire sentence."
With similar fortitude, Doe recalls in her recent essay that she was told her situation after the assault was actually a favorable one, considering the circumstances. "I thought, if this is what having it good looks like, what other hells are survivors living?" Doe also draws a clear, powerful distinction between terms like "victim" and "survivor," concluding that "victims are survivors, and survivors are going to be doing a hell of a lot more than surviving."
The morning after the sentencing, my phone screen was stacked with texts and I turned it over saying, not today, on this day I deserve to sleep. My phone kept ringing and I learned that BuzzFeed was waiting for my permission to publish my court statement in full. As soon as it was posted, I remember thinking, what have I done, making myself exposed and vulnerable again. I texted my sister when it hit 20,000 views, thinking that was it, the comments were actually quite nice, and I closed my computer.
I started getting e-mails forwarded to me from Botswana to Ireland to India. I received watercolor paintings of lighthouses and bicycle earrings. A woman who plucked a picture of her young daughter from the inside of her cubicle wrote, This is who you’re saving.
When I received an e-mail that Joe Biden had written me a letter I was sitting in my pajamas eating some cantaloupe. You are a warrior. I looked around my room, who is he talking to. You have a steel spine, I touched my spine. I printed his letter out and ran around the house flapping it in the air.
There were trolls, too, and one painful idea that Doe says she absorbed was the thought that she was being used as a cautionary tale. "I hope my daughter never ends up like her," were some words that stuck with her. But in her essay, Doe reconsiders those: "As if we end somewhere," she writes, "as if what was done to me marked the completion of my story. Instead of being a role model to be looked up to, I was a sad example to learn from, a story that caused you to shield your daughter’s eyes and shake your heads with pity. But when my letter was published, no one turned away. No one said I’d rather not look, it’s too much, or too sad. Everyone pushed through the hard parts, saw me fully to the end, and embraced every feeling."
That leads Doe to the conclusion that "If you think the answer is that women need to be more sober, more civil, more upright, that girls must be better at exercising fear, must wear more layers with eyes open wider, we will go nowhere."
When Judge Aaron Persky mutes the word justice, when Brock Turner serves one month for every felony, we go nowhere. When we all make it a priority to avoid harming or violating another human being, and when we hold accountable those who do, when the campaign to recall this judge declares that survivors deserve better, then we are going somewhere.