Over the weekend, a friend summarized the Stanford rape case, which surfaced last week. As she shared some of the gruesome details and that the attacker received a paltry six-month prison sentence, my stomach turned, and I quickly asked to change the subject.
By this morning, the Stanford rape victim’s letter to her attacker, Brock Turner, has now gone viral. It recounts her horrific experience waking up in the hospital and trying to piece together what happened. She eventually learned the details of her attack from a news report, and began the process of trying to get back to normal life. One of the more chilling statements from the letter reads, “When the policeman arrived and interviewed the evil Swede who tackled you, he was crying so hard he couldn’t speak because of what he’d seen.”
In an appeal to the judge from Turner’s father, he asked for leniency, saying, “Brock’s life has been deeply altered forever by the events of Jan 17th and 18th.” Hmmm…what about the victim? How is her life altered? Did you think of that, sir?
The victim’s letter to Turner exposes the graphic details of her rape. If this weren’t gruesome enough, the victim writes:
“Unfortunately, after reading the defendant’s report, I am severely disappointed and feel that he has failed to exhibit sincere remorse or responsibility for his conduct. I fully respected his right to a trial, but even after 12 jurors unanimously convicted him guilty of three felonies, all he has admitted to doing is ingesting alcohol. Someone who cannot take full accountability for his actions does not deserve a mitigating sentence. It is deeply offensive that he would try and dilute rape with a suggestion of ‘promiscuity.'”
This blatant disregard for responsibility on Turner’s part is repulsive. His father’s appeal for leniency merely adds insult to injury and hints at why Turner hasn’t learned to take responsibility for his actions.
The Bible teaches about the dangers of not holding others responsible for their sins in the troubling story of the rape of Tamar (2 Samuel 13). To summarize: Amnon (one of David’s sons) raped his half-sister Tamar (sister of Absalom). After her rape, “Tamar lived, a desolate woman, in her brother Absalom’s house” (v. 20).
After David learned of the rape, “he was very angry” (v. 21), but we don’t see him taking action to bring about justice. I believe David’s inaction after the rape was a contributing factor to the turmoil that followed. It appeared David was going to allow Amnon to live on as if nothing had happened.
In other words, a good man in a position of leadership who had the means to bring about justice did nothing.
It was Edmund Burke who said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
There is a lesson here, both from the Stanford case and Tamar’s rape. We can’t be silent. We can’t turn a blind eye. We can’t just write this off as another campus rape that happens all the time.
As the church, we need to equip ourselves to minister to the victims and the perpetrators. We also need to refuse the temptation to do nothing, to stay silent, to ignore the issue because we don’t know how to proceed. This is both the failure of David after Tamar’s rape and the error at the heart of the appeal of Turner’s father.
As leaders, we need to hold others accountable for their actions—even when it’s going to mean pain or discomfort for us personally.