Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Good English

Once again, survivors of sexual assault may find the themes of this post upsetting.

It's turning into Stanford Rapist Week here on "The Historical House", showing that I too have been sucked in by the Greek Tragedy aspect of it all. However, the iconic character who has now caught my attention is that of the woman who defends a man who has done the indefensible and pays a heavy price.

The rape survivor had a lot to lose, and it was stolen from her. Now the rapist's childhood friend has lost her band Good English their gigs.  That is to say, people found out what she wrote to the judge, and they are taking it out on her band.

Her bandmates are also her sisters. There are a lot of sisters suffering collateral damage in this story. The sister of the rape survivor, the sister of the rapist, the sisters of the rapist's character reference ...

I feel sorry for Leslie Rasmussen and even more sorry for her sisters. Did she have any idea that the letter she wrote to the judge pleading for her friend would be made public? Was she only 19 when she wrote it? Yes, what she wrote about rape was stupid, but no more stupid than Whoopi Goldberg's "rape rape" remark (she was in her fifties), and WG still has a showbiz career. So does Roman Polanski and a host of his defenders. I don't think Martin Scorsese should be forced to stop making films, and I don't want Good English to be forced to stop making music.

The idea that a budding female artist has blown her chances to perform and create because she wrote a letter defending a friend really bothers me. When I was 19, I had a male friend or two who really didn't deserve my friendship. I went to great lengths to help one write his essays, and I spent a lot of hard-earned money funding the meals of the other, the leader of our gang.  It was just so cool to be around boys, you know? Good Catholic Boys who didn't pressure me for anything----except my help, my money and my support in their battles and causes. I vaguely seem to recall other boys, quieter boys, telling me I shouldn't be so generous, but did I listen? No. Loud, strong-minded women can be suckers, too.

So I feel very sympathetic to Leslie Rasmussen even though her character reference for her friend included a stupid lecture on what rape is and who rapists are. If one were brave, one would argue that Rasmussen did America a favour by illustrating the dumb ideas about rape the Stanford Rapist and his high school friends grew up with.  (I note she said she could think of other people they knew in high school who might have ended up in  Brock's situation.)

Calling a 20 year old girl a "rape apologist" for a letter in which she tried to convince a judge her friend wasn't capable of rape and then blackballing her band strikes me as getting close to lynch mob behaviour. She thought her friend was incapable of rape, and she was wrong. That shouldn't wreck her life. She didn't hurt the rape survivor. The rapist hurt the rape survivor.  If he deserves six years in the state pen, then he should get six years in the state men. The public shouldn't take out their righteous indignation on a woman.

Update:  Rasmussen's statement, which has been removed from Facebook. That's too bad, as it is necessary corrective to her letter to the judge.

Two months ago, I was asked to write a character statement for use in the sentencing phase of Brock Turner’s trial. Per the request of the court, I was asked to write this statement in an effort to shed light on Brock’s character as I knew it to be during my childhood, adolescence and young adulthood when I interacted with him as a classmate and friend. I felt confident in my ability to share my straightforward opinion of him and how I knew him. I also felt compelled to share my deep concern over the misuse of alcohol that was a well-established contributor in this case. Beyond sharing my personal experience with Brock, I made an appeal to the judge to consider the effect that alcohol played in this tragedy.
I understand that this appeal has now provided an opportunity for people to misconstrue my ideas into a distortion that suggests I sympathize with sex offenses and those who commit them or that I blame the victim involved. [My Thought: But the word "directly" suggested she blamed her indirectly.] Nothing could be farther from the truth, and I apologize for anything my statement has done to suggest that I don’t feel enormous sympathy for the victim and her suffering.
Perhaps I should have included in my statement the following ideas that explain my perspective on the complexities of what may have happened. As a young female musician who has spent years (since I was in fourth grade) performing as a drummer in live music venues, clubs, and bars with my two sisters, I have had the unique opportunity to observe over 10 years of public American drinking culture and the problems that invariably arise through alcohol misuse. I have watched friends, acquaintances and complete strangers transform before my eyes over the course of sometimes very short periods of time, into people I could barely recognize as a result of alcohol overconsumption. I am currently 20 years old. I have made these observations through sober eyes. I have been repeatedly reminded by my family and coached by police to hold my personal sobriety closely and seriously because of the industry I work in and the risks to my own life that I could face as a young woman playing regularly in venues across the country where alcohol is served. [MT: This is convincing testimony against American drinking culture.]
Additionally, I have grown up and currently reside in a university town that is affected every year by the tragic consequences resulting from undergraduate students’ excessive enthusiasm for binge drinking. Student arrests, violence, injuries, and sexual assaults occur with some regularity, and I have often wondered why this culture continues to thrive seemingly unquestioned and unchecked. [MT: And so do I.]
There is nothing more sad than the unnecessary, destructive and enormous toll that
overuse, misuse and abuse of alcohol and drugs play in people’s lives, and I don’t think my effort to point this out in confidence [MT: Why did she think it was in confidence?]to a judge while commenting on Brock Turner’s character, as the sober person I knew him to be, was an irresponsible or reckless decision. [Unfortunately, due to the overzealous nature of social media and the lack of confidence and privacy [MT: It does seem that she believed it would never be made public] in which my letter to the judge was held, I am now thrust into the public eye to defend my position on this matter in the court of public opinion. Now, my choices to defer college to write and play music, to finally introduce 10 years of hard work to a national audience while working consistently and intentionally on my own personal and professional integrity, has led to an uproar of judgement and hatred unleashed on me, my band and my family. [MT: This is a little more serious than Brock's lost appetite. She didn't rape anyone.]
I know that Brock Turner was tried and rightfully convicted of sexual assault. I realize that this crime caused enormous pain for the victim. I don’t condone, support, or sympathize with the offense or the offender. I was asked by a court in California to provide a character statement as a standard and necessary part of the sentencing process. [MT:  My emphasis.]
I believe that Brock’s character was seriously affected by the alcohol he consumed, and I felt that the court needed to consider this issue during their sentencing deliberations. 

UPDATE 2: I just argued in the combox of Metro that Rasmussen and her sisters don't deserve to be blacklisted, so I shall be moderating my combox today. Naturally by defending Good English I am running the risk of being called an apologist for a so-called "rape apologist". Righteous indignation is a virtue, and the rape survivor's brilliant letter has roused America to righteous indignation, as well it might. But then there's fury roaming the world, seeking whom it may devour, looking for fresh blood, forming lynch mobs. 

How did the statements of Turners' family and friends fall into media hands? Does anyone know? Oh, so far I see that a Stanford professor named Michele Dauber was the one who posted the father's statement on Twitter. Apparently she is an authority on campus sexual assault. But are such character reference statements usually in the public domain?

The Cut credits only "a source" for the leaking of the Rasmussen letter. "A source" did real harm to Rasmussen. (The rapist's dad read his statement aloud in court.) I'm really curious about that. That strikes me as the story behind the story. Who wants to throw so much fuel on the fire that Turner's family and friends burn up too?


  1. I think that all court documents are technically viewable by the public, they just have to be requested from the court office.

    I too think that rapists -- not their victims, families, or friends -- are the ones who should be punished by society. Obviously the victims, families and friends suffer emotionally because of the criminal's actions, but society doesn't need to join in. The more of a mob atmosphere we generate, the more pressure will be put on people to not accuse their attackers. Their own characters are already put through the wringer -- what if the rapist is their best friend's relative or friend? Should she or he lose a job or scholarship due to the taintedness of a criminal family member? What if the rapist is the survivor's own friend or family member, and the survivor doesn't want the non-criminal friends and family to lose jobs, etc? Making an atmosphere where everyone but the actual criminal suffers means an increased pressure for survivors to remain silent.

  2. Fantastic post! I think you are spot-on.

    "But then there's fury roaming the world, seeking whom it may devour, looking for fresh blood, forming lynch mobs."

    The only good thing is that people move along to the next fake outrage fairly quickly. Maybe these poor girls will be able to salvage something of their band once everyone's forgotten about it?

    Did you see the outrage over the gorilla thing last week? That poor mom was getting death threats, apparently. There are far too many people out there with no common sense, no filter and far too much access to platforms on which to air their outrage, imho.

    1. I skimmed over the gorilla outrage although I was interested to see Jane Goodall, who as far as I know never married and I had down as a Seraphic Single.

      So far I have been called a "rape apologist in this country"--I assume my critic means the USA. Maybe next New Year's Day I will resolve to strive to be verbally insulted in a ridiculous fashion every day.