Guilty. The two former Vanderbilt football players on trial for rape have been found guilty. Prosecutors are being congratulated, the victim has thanked them for bringing about justice, and the public is relieved … but I am not satisfied.
I am not satisfied because none of this should have happened. And I’m not just talking morally — I mean literally. At every turn, this could have been prevented, or at least stopped.
The trial revealed testimony from numerous male students who were present before, during and after the assault. Any one of these witnesses could have changed the outcome for this young woman, but none of them did. Not the boys who helped carry her body into the dorm. Not her “friend,” who walked by her naked and abused body in the hallway. Not the other boys who helped carry her into the ringleaders’ dorm room. Not the roommate who pretended to sleep through the assault.
None of them saw her as anything but expendable. They ignored her humanity and left her to be raped.
The verdict in the Vanderbilt rape case should make me feel more confident about the justice system, about the protections for young women like my daughter, but in truth, it doesn’t. It leaves me colder than before.
I have a daughter who will be entering college soon. This is supposed to be my time to feel accomplished as a parent. My kid is almost at the finish line of “childhood.” She is almost ready to embark on a chapter of her life that will be written completely in her own handwriting, without me hovering over her shoulder suggesting edits. I should feel excited, but all I feel is dread and worry.
How can I in good conscience send her off to school knowing that the chances of her being assaulted are estimated to be as high as 1 in 4. What am I, as a parent supposed to do with that? I have a permanent knot in my stomach because I know that simply by being a woman, she is a target.
I’ve told her in the past that I will keep her safe, that her friends will have her back, and that her school will protect her. But when she goes off to college, are any of those things really true?
I want to yell out, “What’s happening to our country, when did we lose our sense of civility, our brotherhood and sisterhood!”
But that would be a very naïve exclamation, because you can’t lose something that you never actually achieved in the first place. Women are still seen as property, play things, sexual toys to be objectified and used. And those who follow the path to college with the hopes of making their mark on the world can’t just focus on that dream. They have to traverse the minefield known as America’s rape culture and its favorite pastime, slut shaming
I promised my daughter, all of my kids, that they would have the chance to find their place in the sun as long as they worked hard, played fair and stayed true to a moral code.
But how do I keep that promise if I can’t even keep them safe? The answer is that we have to keep working at it. So while I won’t be hovering over my daughter’s shoulder, I will be in the face of schools and the justice system. I will mount my soapbox and demand that women like my daughter are free to pursue their education unencumbered by sexual inequality and violence. It’s what we all need to do, if any of our daughters are to be truly safe.More On