The quote “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind” is often attributed to Ghandi. Dr. Martin Luther King said something similar, stating “The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert.” Remembering this, and living it, is often more easily said than done.
Case in point-the man who raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster last January. By now, you know that Brock Turner was sentenced to six months in county jail. By now, you know his father wrote a letter to the presiding judge, and perhaps, you read my response. By now, you have read the heart wrenching and incredibly powerful statement the survivor of that attack read to her rapist. And now, you are trying to come to grips with everything wrong. The obscenely lenient sentence, the lack of empathy, the lack of remorse, the feelings of rage, anger, the need for vengeance. You want an eye for an eye.
The internet is teeming with ferocious words, aimed squarely at this rapist. Which makes perfect sense. He will be out of county jail long before his victim has healed. He will go on with his life long before she can move on with hers.
His father’s letter was horrible, lacking any mention of the woman Brock Turner raped. The judge’s concern for a rapist’s athletic future, while ignoring the survivor’s future. The high school friend, a woman, who blamed the victim while claiming she did not blame the victim. The probation officer who recommended a lenient sentence. The societal belief that rape isn’t rape unless the victim is assaulted in a dark alley by a stranger wearing a stocking mask, wielding a knife or gun, something the high school friend wrote in her letter:
This is completely different from a woman getting kidnapped and raped as she is walking to her car in a parking lot. That is a rapist. These are not rapists. These are idiot boys and girls having too much to drink and not being aware of their surroundings and having clouded judgement.
We are beyond angry, we are beyond rage, we are infuriated, red-faced, stammering, screaming at the sky. And in that anger, we wish for vengeance. We wish violence upon the rapist, we wish for him to feel as awful, as violated, as the woman he raped. We wish rape upon the rapist.
But what will that help? If Brock Turner is raped in county jail, will that teach him anything? Will he leave jail in six months having learned what he did was wrong? Will he have empathy for the survivor of his sexual violence? Will he be less likely to rape again? “It seeks to annihilate rather than convert.” We need to convert this rapist, not annihilate him. We need him to understand, to learn, to come to a point where he accepts responsibility for his violent act. We need him to listen to survivors of rape, really listen to them, listen to their fear, their trauma, and empathize.
I’m angry, too. I struggled for days with the need for vengeance. I wanted this man, this sexual predator, to feel pain, physical pain. I wanted him violated. Then I stopped, and remembered what that feels like. The bruises on my neck, the bruising on my thighs, the blood, the fear, the anxiety. I remembered waking up at three o’clock this morning, drenched in sweat, shaking from a nightmare that is all too real. And I realized I do not wish this on anyone. Not even him.
An eye for eye leaves the whole world blind. A rape for a rape creates more violence, not less. Hating this man will not help him learn. Changing this man, and changing society’s views on rape, will help him learn. It will help survivors feel less helpless, less victimized. We can learn, too. We can learn to tell our children what sexual assault really is and is not; that rape is rape. Teach our sons that if a woman cannot give consent, it is the same as if she says no. Teach our daughters the same. No one deserves to be raped. Not someone who is drunk, not someone who is wearing a short skirt, not someone who is transgender, not someone who is incapacitated, not a man, not a woman, no one.
Not even Brock Turner.