Dear Ben,

We’ve discussed sexting but I didn’t think a discussion on rape was necessary quite yet, you’re only 12 years old. I’m sure by now that you’ve heard the name Brock Turner, you’ve been hearing Stanford (a college we throw around as hopefully a future option), swimmer and athlete all buzzwords for you, things you would deem positive. I’m sure you’re wondering what all the fuss is about and I’m realizing it is time to have this discussion.

A girl and her sister went to a fraternity party; one girl drank too much and blacked out. Two students witnessed a man sexually assaulting the girl and when he tried to run they caught and held him until police arrived. The victim woke up in the hospital to find out she was raped. Details of what happened to her, details about her own body come through second and third sources. In her own words “One more time, in public news, I learned that my ass and vagina were completely exposed outside, my breasts had been groped, fingers had been jabbed inside me along with pine needles and debris, my bare skin and head had been rubbing against the ground behind a dumpster, while an erect freshman was humping my half naked, unconscious body.”

The erect freshman was Brock Turner, a Stanford University student and he was subsequently convicted of three felony counts of sexual assault. He could have been sentenced to a maximum of 14 years in prison but instead received a very lenient sentence of 6 months. His lenient sentence is one reason you’re hearing about him, what he and his father have said on the matter are the other reasons. Brock has not shown remorse or accountability for criminally and sexually assaulting his victim. He blamed the “party culture” at Stanford and used words like “binge drinking, sexual promiscuity, and poor judgment” in his letter to the judge. His father’s statement also referenced binge drinking and sexual promiscuity and referred to his son’s sexual assault as “20 minutes of action.”

Her assailant, his father and the judge have all victimized the victim. I bet you’re wondering how can this happen when all the facts are clear with witnesses and evidence? It’s called rape culture. Rape culture is a setting that allows that rape is pervasive and normalized. Due to our societies attitude about gender and sexuality, rape culture blames the victim, trivializes the effects of rape and denies it’s pervasiveness. If a store is robbed and a victim shot, no one blames the victim for being in the store. If a drunk driver hits someone, no one asks the victim how many speeding tickets they’ve had. But if a woman is raped, society will tell you that she was asking for it depending on what was wearing, how much she drank and how many sexual partners she’s had. Assailants will dissect their rape victims dating and social media history looking to discredit her. And then, when the victim can’t be blamed, when there are witnesses verifying her unconscious state, they will blame their circumstances using qualifiers like “partying” and “messing around.”

I will make this very clear. Sex is something to enjoy between two consenting adults. Consent is “to agree to do or allow something: to give permission for something to happen or be done.” Rape is “unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person, with or without force, by a sex organ, other body part, or foreign object, without the consent of the victim.”

If a woman is too drunk, high or unconscious, she is not capable of giving consent. It doesn’t matter if you’ve hooked up with her before, it doesn’t matter what she’s wearing or that you heard that she gave the entire baseball team blowjobs. It doesn’t matter if she flirts with you or rubs your back. If there is not clear consent, keep your hands (and everything else), to yourself. If there is consent but then your partner changes her mind and says no after having said yes, STOP. A woman has the right to change her mind and you need to respect that decision. No means no regardless of what came before. Sex is never to be taken. Consent, clear and certain consent is all you need to focus on. If you are ever unsure, stop.

You’ve heard the assailant was a swimmer. That has nothing to do with the rape he committed. Brock Turner is a rapist who can swim well. He and his defenders are trying to qualify his crime, trying to limit the meaning of his certain rape by letting us know that he’s an athlete. Don’t pay it any attention. Rape is rape.