Open Letter to Father of Brock Turner

There is nothing like a heart-breaking case of sexual assault to make me immediately want to hold my daughters close and never let them go. Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t a single case of violence against women that isn’t heartbreaking, but a detailed letter recently published by the young woman who was sexually assaulted  by Brock Turner just over a year and a half ago, has left me in absolute ruins. She describes so vividly the pain and anguish she has had to bear, it really brings to light the torture that rape victims endure in their everyday battle to overcome.

And I’ve learned something so important from this story: while I may teach my girls to run from the weird guy, to stay away from the suspicious men, the ‘pervert-looking’ guys, and ones that make the hairs on their neck stand up in fear… the golden boy, star-of-the-swim-team-boy might just be the most dangerous of them all.

I’m struggling with how to teach them to listen to their instincts and to trust their gut when Brock Turner probably never set off anyone’s danger radar. I’m torn between protecting them and instilling a deep mistrust for just about every man on this planet.

And while Brock Turner will forever be lumped with the special kind of scum that is reversed for rapists, I think his father has a lot to answer for.

 

Dear Mr Dan Turner,

I recently read a letter you had written. You certainly have a flair for words. Your letter taught me about entitlement and privilege. It also gave me a little English lesson when I learned the synonym for ‘sexual assault’ is “action”.

So forgive me if my letter doesn’t measure up to your linguistic talents, and that I may not be very eloquent when I say this: You are a first class a-hole.

YOU are everything that is wrong with society today. Your son may have been the twisted little douchebag behind that heinous crime, but you and your kind fuel the Brock Turners of this world.

You are the reason young men continue to rape women. You are the reason why ‘privileged’ offenders get negligible sentences. You and your kind are the accountable for the fact that many women will never report crimes committed against them.

I don’t have a son Mr Turner, but rest assured, if I did, he would know that sexual assault and rape are wrong. He would know that a lack of consent (or consciousness – in this case), means ‘NO’.

He’d know that women deserve to be valued and treated with respect. He’d know how to communicate and listen. He’d know that his achievements doesn’t make him superior than anyone else. He’d know that he wasn’t entitled to everything he wants, especially if what he wanted was another human being. He’d know that his privilege wouldn’t set him above the law.

You see Mr Turner, these are values that a loving parent instils in their child. I do not doubt for second that you love your child. You standing by his side through this ugly ordeal only cements the fact that you love him deeply. And you should.

But you have failed as a father. You have failed to help him see a difference between ‘wanting’ and ‘having’. You have failed to teach him that while the world may be your oyster as a young Stanford undergrad, that doesn’t mean you can simply take something of great value with ease.

And you failed miserably this week when your letter to the Judge referred to his unlawful deed as “20 minutes of action”. Because which young man doesn’t like a bit of ‘action’, right?

That there Mr Turner, was your teachable moment. An opportunity to love your child, but condemn his actions. An opportunity to be the father he is obviously sorely lacking. And you botched it up pretty royally didn’t you?

We understand you didn’t want to see your boy rotting away in a prison cell for years of his life, but to excuse his behavior on the ‘culture of alcoholism and partying’ is pretty pathetic. I know many men who drink, even occasionally to the point of excess, who don’t end up raping women in their drunken stupor.

To justify his assault on the fact that this ‘culture’ exists in the swim team baffles me. How many other Stanford swim team members have been accused of sexual assault?

In my family, we were introduced to the concept of right and wrong from the earliest of age. If I got into a spat with anyone at school, you could be certain I was getting a spanking from my mom when I got home.

I bet your son has never had a spanking in his life. And while I don’t condone corporal punishment as valid teaching tool for children, my point is that I wasn’t coddled and made to feel like I was right at every turn.

You failed your son, and you failed that young defenseless woman when you set him loose on this world with that giant chip on his shoulder.

I hope you bear that burden for the rest of your life.

 

 

 

Open Letter to the Mom whose Kid Fell into the Gorilla Exhibit

To the mom whose kid fell into the gorilla exhibit,

I admit it: I mommy-shamed you. My first thought at hearing an endangered animal had been killed due to a child entering his enclosure, was to think that the parent – you, had been irresponsible. Then I heard you went to the zoo with 4 other children (5 in total), and I shamed you again. I further read that you worked at a day-care, and I questioned who would trust you to look after their kids?

So yes, I admit it: I shamed you. I sat behind my keyboard and screen and let the anger flowing within me come out the only way I knew how.

So today, when the social media universe has (somewhat) calmed, and pictures of the majestic Harambe is not flooding my feed as much as it was yesterday, I sit down to think about why I was so angry.

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I have always been an animal lover. I don’t eat meat, although this is not the standard by which an animal lover is measured. I am vocal against soulless trophy hunters who carry out atrocities in the name of sport. I stand up against dog fighting rings by signing petitions for harsher sentences for perpetrators of this heinous crime. I donate to charities that are actually doing something about the rapidly dwindling numbers of rhinos on our planet. I stand outside circuses and protest the use of elephants and lions for entertainment. I write challenging letters to laboratories that carry out terrible experiments on monkeys and beagles.  It’s not nearly enough, but I try to do what I can to ensure the animals entrusted to us on this earth are treated with dignity.

I wanted a scapegoat. And you made an easy target.

So when I heard that Harambe received a bullet to his head, and your son was sent home with a mild concussion and a few bruises, I lost it. I wanted someone to blame. I wanted a scapegoat. And you made an easy target.

But now that my anger is in check, I will admit I was wrong to shame you. In the realm of parenting, there isn’t a single one of us without sin. You made a lapse in judgement, a terrible mistake even, but you do not need to be crucified for that. I know I have made plenty mistakes of my own.

I heard about a toddler in my neighbourhood who drowned in his family pool a few weeks ago. His mom was meters away. The 2 year old just slipped away for a second, and now his distraught mother will live with that guilt for the rest of her life.

I am SO glad that you will not have to live a life of guilt without your son. I assure you, I was never one of those ‘activists’ saying “the kid should have died”. Even when my anger was at its peak, I realised the zoo officials had done what they felt was right.  I am heartbroken that a magnificent gorilla is dead, and that hopes for his species’ survival dwindles even further.

But I know that Harambe’s fate was sealed the moment your little boy entered that enclosure. They executed him for fear he may have harmed your son. And had he actually hurt/killed your boy, he would have been euthanized anyway. It was a horrible, no-win situation.

I will never claim to have the privilege to deem one life more important than another, be it animal or human. All I know is, if that was my child in there, I would have pulled the trigger myself. Because while I love animals deeply and passionately, there isn’t a single animal life I value over my child’s. Come to think of it, there isn’t a human life I value over my child’s either.

So, I’m sorry I shamed you. There are a million things you could have done differently…and I am sure you play them over and over in your head daily since the incident. I can only hope you learn the various lessons to be learnt from this ordeal. I know that it has taught me many lessons myself:

–          I have learned toddlers are sneaky little beasts, who are prone to doing precisely the opposite of what they’re told to do (or NOT to do).

–          I have learned that I need my village. And the next time I think of going anywhere that may be potentially hazardous, I will take along Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Patti, neighbour Sue and her cousin too. All hands on deck.

–          I’ve learned that accidents happen in the blink of an eye, so I will do my utmost best to pay attention at all times. I will try to stay off my phone and live in the moment.

–          I’ve learned that hindsight makes everyone an expert, so while I read about these tragedies around me, I’ll strive to be better and do better with my own kids.

And finally, I now place the blame where it should have been all along: on the people who think that animals in captivity, for the entertainment of others is acceptable. On Zoos and Seaworlds. On circuses and petting parks.

#EmptyTheTanks #EmptyTheCages #BoycottAnimalCircuses #RIPHarambe