How The Stanford Rape Survivor's Powerful Letter Is Emboldening Others To Report Their Attacks

"It bothered me that I would be ruining someone’s life if I reported the crime... That changed when I read the Stanford letter."

If the litany of high-profile sexual assault cases in the past few years was not enough to convince you how painfully prevalent rape culture is, perhaps the Stanford rape case finally did.

The woman who was sexually assaulted at Stanford read a letter to her attacker in court that later went viral on Buzzfeed. It added more momentum to the conversation about sexual assault — particularly on college campuses, where an estimated 20 to 25 percent of women experience (attempted) rape during their college career. 

The Stanford rape case generated plenty of attention and provoked many angry calls for change — and change now — but the bravery exuded by the woman who was sexually assaulted and the ludicrously light sentence handed down to her assailant, Brock Turner, by one Judge Aaron Persky, have emboldened other survivors to report their own rapes, too.

In an essay in Elite Daily, an anonymous woman wrote about how the survivor's letter moved her to finally report her own sexual assault:

After the assault, I told my parents and a few friends. Every one of them wanted me to report it, but I did not want to because I was thinking about his future. I was thinking about how he had another year of school left. How his future would have been on the line because of me. I always want the best for people — that's just how I am. It bothered me that I would be ruining someone's life if I reported the crime; as much as he would have deserved it, I didn't want to do that to someone. I didn't want that burden on me. That changed when I read the Stanford letter.

In xoJane, Jenn Hoffman wrote about how the Stanford rape case inspired her to open up about her own sexual assault, as well as her ongoing efforts to recall Judge Persky from the bench.

"Like Brock Turner, my rapist was a blue-eyed, blonde-haired, affluent, college-educated white male. He came from a good family. He was a 'nice boy.' I was an underage drunk girl. I knew I didn't stand a chance when it came to public opinion," Hoffman noted. "One of the reasons I now want to be open about my story is because I think a lot of women experience a similar cycle of being attacked then being blamed and shamed for their attack by their attacker. The only way to change a standard is to speak up against it and rally other people together to demand change."

While the woman's letter has clearly made an impact on the national discussion about sexual assault, it also crucially has encouraged other survivors to seek justice against their own attackers. The authorities' clumsy handling of sexual assault reports, society's tendency to dismiss and ignore alleged victims, and absurdly light sentences like Turner's are all factors that play into many survivors' reluctance to report their rapes and sexual assaults. 

Old habits die hard, but perhaps the Stanford survivor's letter is the beginning of a culture where victims will finally be afforded the justice they deserve.

Cover letter via jejim / Shutterstock.com