If you have spent any time on the Internet or watching television the past few days you have no doubt been exposed to the huge buzz about the Stanford University Swimmer rape case. I won’t spend time reviewing the details of the case. If you are not familiar with it, you can Google it and find plenty to read.
There’s a lot going on in this story, the most attention going to two elements making news over the past few days. One is the statement read by the victim in court and later viewed by over four million people on the Internet. It is long, but compelling and exceptionally impactful. If you have an apathetic attitude toward the crime of rape, reading this victim’s statement should shake you out of it.
The second element made news today and earned a tremendous backlash reaction. It was a letter written to the judge by the defendant’s father who pleaded his case for why his son should be shown some leniency. It was not an unusual letter from the father of a well-to-do family with a high achieving athletic son on the swim team at Stanford. But it was his incredible wording that revealed an attitude that earned him a healthy dose of well-deserved criticism today. The father said his son’s life “will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve…that is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”
If you read the victim’s statement and then note the father’s assessment that what happened to her was a mere “20 minutes of action” you will have a clear understanding of what the term disgusting truly means. To add salt to the wound, the defendant could have gotten up to 14 years in prison, while the prosecutor was looking for only six years and the judge wound up sentencing him to only six months in jail and another three on probation. Consequently, the judge is now feeling pretty much the same amount of wrath as the father.
Personally, the story has had an unusual effect on me and I’ve been second-guessing myself most of the day. The reason? There is a significant date rape incident in my most current book, ANCHOR. And what I’ve been chewing on all day is rethinking what I wrote and whether or not I handled the situation appropriately. The incident in my story takes place in 1982 and I know the awareness and sensitivity to rape issues were not at the same level as today. I am satisfied that my scruples are in tact and I did not write anything that left me feeling uncomfortable…bbbbbut, I did come to the conclusion that this Stanford case has jarred me beyond anything anticipated.
The question I asked myself is whether or not, as a writer, am I obligated to write what is politically and socially correct if I am telling a made-up story about a rape …or am I helping to perpetuate a wrongful insensitivity if I do otherwise? I came to the conclusion that the fact that I asked myself this question told me I am “sensitivity-sensitive” so stop hassling over it. Fiction is fiction, I also told myself, and it can take whatever liberties it needs to tell its story. So, if I allow my characters to angle things in an unacceptable direction, because that’s where the story takes me…so be it. I hasten to add that I do not think I did that in my book.
Still, I cannot escape the fact that I finally admitted to myself that if I had read the victim’s statement in the Stanford rape case before I wrote my book, it would have probably influenced me. My story would have remained the same, but I may have nudged it along just a little differently here and there.
If you haven’t read the victim’s statement, you should put yourself through the misery. It may likewise have you nudging things a little differently here and there.