Dear “Emily Doe,”
I wanted to write a letter of solidarity, supporting you in this miscarriage of justice. But I realized no words can be more powerful than your own, and your letter to Brock Turner, the rapist (warning: graphic details), affirms your dignity. Your spirit is both graceful and indomitable, and I wish for you the best.
May parents raise more daughters like you.
And may you find peace, somehow, in the outpouring of love and support for you.
My words can never do you justice, so instead I turn to parents of sons for my plea.
Dear parents of sons,
Please don’t raise another Brock Turner.
Please don’t raise another Dan Turner, father of convicted rapist Brock Turner. I use “father” in the loosest sense of the term, because his letter does not show a father.
I lost my father three months ago. He was not a perfect man, but he taught me about life:
- I love you, and I’m proud of you.
- Do the right thing.
These two go hand in hand. How can a parent be proud of a child who does not do the right thing? How can a child learn to do the right thing if a parent does not insist on it?
Years ago, I played Pictionary with my parents and friends of my parents. I was young, excited, and eager to win. My dad’s friend (and my special friend, even if he was an adult with children of his own) showed me the word, explained what it meant, and said, “No one’s going to get this. Why don’t we draw silly pictures that have nothing to do with the word, and we’ll laugh when the time’s up?”
In my child’s brain, I discovered the perfect solution. I would agree with my dad’s friend (let’s call him Tom), so he would draw a silly picture. Then I would try to make my team guess the right word. We’d win!
Tom drew a lumberjack cutting down a tree. I think he may have thrown in a Christmas decoration. I earnestly labored to get my team to guess, and they almost got it. When the time was up and my dad’s friend’s team groaned at the prank, I laughed.
“I got you!” I cackled. I thought I was so clever!
Afterward, when the company left, Dad took me aside. He never scolded, never yelled, and never showed anger. But he spoke in that quiet, heavy voice of a father filled with disappointment.
“He’s your friend,” Dad said, reminding me of the years Tom chatted with me after church, brought me gifts, and shared favorite jokes. “Is that how you treat a friend?”
I squirmed. It was a joke! I was clever! But I knew better than to say so to Dad. “Okay,” I muttered, wishing I had a cool dad who understood me.
My father loved me. He taught me to be proud of myself, but he taught me to be someone who made him proud.
He taught me that a man keeps his promises, protects his family, and works hard.
He showed me how to reach out to those who were marginalized, to understand people in pain, and put other people’s needs first. He opened doors for everyone, helped them to their car, and offered a smile and encouragement.
He did not teach me that violating a stranger’s body entitled me to a pity party.
When I did wrong, he did not plead with others that I should get to enjoy my ribeye steaks in peace.
Parents of sons, please teach your children to learn right from wrong. Teach your young men that consent is sexy, virility does not include conquest, and women’s bodies are governed by women alone.
Teach your sons that no means no.
Teach your sons that if they like a girl, they should express themselves politely and respectfully and remain open to refusal.
A girl’s body is hers alone.
Teach your sons that rape is not a joking matter, that women are worthy individuals rather than sandwich-makers, and that men are not the new victim class.
When you teach your sons they are victims, they become victimizers.
Teach your sons that loving a woman is an equal partnership with consent on both sides, not the owning of one human by another.
Teach your sons that their worth lies in their integrity, not in the physical attractiveness of the women they think they own.
Rapists cause rape.
What creates rapists?
Teaching sons that they are the true victims, and that their swim times and smiling school photo will reduce a 14-year prison sentence to a few months with time off for good behavior.
What happens, Dan Turner, if your son is raped in prison?
Will you expect your child’s rapist to get leniency then, so he can eat ribeye steaks in peace?