Anna Gragert
Updated Jun 08, 2016 @ 1:27 pm
Credit: GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images

On the night of January 17th, a young women was raped and, after a year-long trial, her rapist Brock Allen Turner was given a lenient 6-month jail sentence for his horrific crime. Though many are upset with these results, we devastatingly can’t go back in time to change these events, so the question is: What can we do? When faced with circumstances as harrowing as those surrounding the Stanford sexual assault case, it’s sometimes unclear how to respond in order to make a true difference.

Just asking this question demonstrates part of what needs to happen,” Becca O’Connor – the vice president of public policy at the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) told Motto. “If we’re not educated on how best to respond when someone presents their story, that can have a detrimental impact on the future healing of that individual.

O’Connor asserted that the words “I believe you” can make a world of a difference to a victim – especially since the first response they receive can affect how they process trauma and how they end up dealing with the crime. She added, “You want to make sure you’re thoughtful about not blaming them.” Providing victims with the support and resources they need is also of the utmost importance. These can be found on RAINN’s website.

Though it may be difficult to process – considering an American is assaulted every two minutes (an incredibly upsetting fact) – O’Connor mentioned that one should refrain from asking contradictory questions when they’re listening to a victim’s story. It doesn’t matter what they were wearing or if they were drinking. “The only person responsible for what happened is the individual who made the choice to commit a crime,stated O’Connor.

Ultimately, education is key because it gives sexual assault victims the tools they need to share their stories. In turn, these stories can send the message that sexual assault cannot (and should not) be ignored.

Remember seatbelt laws? No one thought twice about [seatbelts] until we starting talking about it and changing the way we think about them and safety,said O’Connor. “We had a whole cultural shift around seatbelts – we need that to happen with sexual assault.

While we have a long way to go, it seems that O’Connor’s goal is already being set in motion. There are now several petitions asking that Judge Persky – who sentenced Brock to six months in county jail instead of the 14 years in state prison he technically could have faced for his crime – be removed from the bench. Stanford Law Professor Michele Landis Dauber will also be spearheading a formal campaign to recall the judge because[h]e has made women at Stanford and across California less safe.

In the end, as we witness the effects of Brock Turner’s unspeakable crime, we must do what we can to prevent this from happening to others in the future. We must educate ourselves and work to amplify victims’ voices.

If you have been sexually assaulted, there are plenty of resources out there for support. The National Sexual Assault Hotline can also be reached at 1-800-656-4673. If someone you know has been sexually assaulted, RAINN has resources that will assist you in doing the best you can to help.