Why Petitions Aren’t Enough Anymore

Trigger warning: rape

The Brock Turner case was a giant mess of victim-blaming and white privilege. The rapist got off on an easy sentence because he was an athlete and the judge thought “jail would be too hard” for him. But now, all the outrage, all the activist statements, have fizzled out of the media. Remember the petition going around to recall Judge Persky? It’s still in existence, and it’s been months since it was started.

Naturally, things take time. But when there are bigger issues going on that recalling one judge, we need to rethink where we’re putting all of our energy. Yes, judges like Persky are part of the problem and contribute to rape culture when they give lenient sentences based on athletic status and race. But Turner’s case wasn’t the first one to use victim-blaming as a tactic, and it wasn’t the last.

Victim-blaming has been getting exponentially worse. Most recently, a bus driver who raped a 15-year-old student walked away from jail time with nothing but probation and a GPS monitor (I touched more on this topic here). Why? Because the lawyer decided to discredit the victim by saying the rape was based off pain, and there was no “actual proof” that the victim was in pain. Since the bus driver had already served 100 days in jail for the rape, and the victim now had “credibility issues,” his jail sentence was suspended. (Did I mention the bus driver actually pleaded guilty?)

All I see here is that a defense lawyer took advantage of the fact that the victim was a child: young, small, still trying to learn their way through the world. And the lawyer banked on the idea that children sometimes exaggerate. But the real kicker is that I can’t find anything online that goes in depth about the victim’s “credibility issues,” probably because they’re nonexistent.

But it begs the question: where should we really be focusing our time? Rape culture isn’t going to go away without any sort of activism, and it’s looking like we may have to start picking our battles. Recalling one judge who makes disgusting rulings will help, but how much? Persky isn’t the only one making bad judgment calls and we can’t possibly file a petition for every judge and every case. Hopefully the petition to recall Persky will set off a domino effect (in a good way).

It might be time to stop looking at individual cases and look at victim-blaming as a whole. It’s a bigger problem and each case is just a cog in a disturbed machine. Cases should be used as platforms, as evidence, as sparks that fuel the movement to break down rape culture in America. It’s ingrained in our society and our justice system and it’s time to shift focus to the bigger picture.


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