In May of 1984, I was a young mother hanging baby’s clothes out to dry, the intense gulf coast sun finishing the job before the laundry basket was empty. Problematic sand-spurs surrounded my feet, which did not curtail my loud wailing of Gershwin’s “Summertime.” Our neighbor, George, would sometimes offer up something from the day’s catch, and in the evenings we would push the stroller down to our little beach and watch the sun go down.
It’s impossible to avoid cliché when talking about losing our innocence after the rape/murder of Karen Gregory occurred just blocks away from our home in the serene town of Gulfport, Florida. Her name might be familiar to some of you as her case had some unusual twists and became the subject of a television series, extensive news coverage, and a book; titled https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/878240.Unanswered_Cries by Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas French.
My friend Beverly was a close friend of Karen’s and came to my apartment the next day to tell us the news. We sat and cried together and went to the hardware store for new locks-fifty dollar locks on our $205-a-month apartment.
Not a stranger to rape-that-makes the news (I wrote about it here) I decided to let the professionals write about the Stanford rapist, Brock Turner. I really didn’t think I had anything to add to the extensive media coverage the case has already seen. Until flashback!
Beverly was a social worker and a champion of rights ahead of her time. We were outdoors at a music festival where she operated a booth displaying her wares: silicone breasts with lumps in them (to teach about breast self-exam) and lots of literature about contraception and self-defense.
It was Beverly on that day that taught me that rape was not about sex, but about violence. There were ad campaigns stating just this very fact in every media outlet (before internet this meant Walter Cronkite and your mother). Women and men shared a rare united front on the topic: rape is violence against women.
Fast forward to today and how far have we come? The (accepted) term “rape culture” in itself is problematic. There’s a blurry, underlying sort of fuzziness that seems to say “It is part of the culture. Get used to it.”
The Stanford Rapist (excuse me, the Stanford Convicted Sexual Assaulter to be legally correct), wants you to “get used to it.” In case you have been living under a rock, his dad even explained, in his comments to the judge:
These verdicts have broken and shattered him and our family in so many ways. His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.
If you don’t want to “get used to it” (after all, it was “only 20 minutes of action”-if the dad talked like this did this swimmer have a decent chance growing up?), we need to remove a judge from the bench whose judgment clouded by swimming medals. We need to return to the 80’s on this one and re-frame rape as the act of violence it is.
I like to post about adoption, kittens, my favorite self-loathing authors and the like. It seldom occurs to me to sign a petition, mostly because I never really expect it to help much. Here is your chance to be heroic. Go to Change.Org. Be Karen’s Hero. The Stanford Victim’s hero. My hero. Thank you.
In The words of Emily Littella, Never Mind.