As a first-time mother with my son, I suffered through the normal nervous Nellie routine. But by the time I had my second child, a girl, I’d eased into the daily grind of two opposing forces of nature, like a pro. All the baby books and constant calls to my mother became a thing of the past, and something I only reverted to on the rarest of occasions when I found myself at a loss for common sense. The single greatest gift I trusted to guide me in my journey of life.
I was blessed with two healthy children. Two little people who sought from me everything to make their worlds whole. I watched them grow. I cried when they cried. I beamed as they became the human beings I had always hoped they would. What more could a mother possibly ask for? To see her sons and daughters add a positive measure to society, to forge ahead brightly with passion and hope in their eyes.
Yup, all the good stuff.
That’s what we, as mothers and fathers, imagine for our children. What we bring to the parenting table. But it would be foolish to believe that’s all we bring. We can’t envision ourselves as poor role models, people with flaws that resemble all that’s wrong with our society. The bigotry. The racism. The cynicism. The apathy. Of course not! How ridiculous! But the truth is, we are all those things too. Well, some of them, anyway. In one shape form or another, one degree or another, because hey, guess what … we’re human. Beings as God intended us. And fallible.
Which leads me to believe that it is because we’re imperfect, our lives take on greater meaning. It gives us something to aspire to, something to make amends for. It is the one thing that forces us to look inwardly and ask the hard question: Who are we really?
For me, nothing screams louder to this point than the Stanford sexual assault case. Serving to remind us of a great many things:
- That heroes do exist. That when injustice crosses their path, there are still those out there that will rise to the occasion. No matter the cost. And to those two men who charged in and stopped Brock Turner from doing further damage, I salute you.
- What does not kill us, makes us stronger. Though the victim remains anonymous, we will forever identify with her faceless, indelible spirit.
- How blind justice really is. Thanks Judge Aaron Persky for bringing that one home to us.
- How ignorant and unconscionable a father can be. Loved Dan Turner’s statement regarding his son’s six-month jail sentence: “A steep price to pay for twenty minutes of actions out of his twenty plus years of life.” So Dan … let me ask you. When exactly would these “actions” constitute a crime? Twenty-five minutes?
- A mother’s love has no boundaries. As I read Carleen Turner’s plea for her son asking the judge to spare him ANY jail time, further stating: “He won’t survive it. His dreams have been shattered. No medical school, no becoming an Orthopedic surgeon,” I had to pause right there. Because if I dare put myself in her shoes, I can easily be Carleen Turner. I can easily understand how she feels. I can easily see in one unbelievable, horrific moment all those dreams she had for her child, shatter into a million pieces right before her eyes. But as I continue to ponder the situation and not hear one mention of the real victim in this story, I pull away. I look at their daughter standing on the sideline wondering would her parents still be singing that tune if she was the one victimized. I look at my daughter. I look at myself and all those like me and say “that’s it!” Because I know exactly what it means to have my voice snuffed out by those twenty minutes of action.
I wish to God I didn’t. But I do, and it is because of that experience, I have hammered into my son growing up how important it is to respect women and into my daughter, love of self.
Would I have been a different mother if this didn’t happen to me? I don’t know. But I can honestly say that if my son was Brock Turner, my heart would be broken too, imagining what horrible things awaited him. Yes, I would cry for him. Yes, I would fear that his life from this moment on, was in jeopardy. But I also know I would want him to accept responsibility for what he did. Without that simple act, there is no atonement. And everything else is pure bullshit.
I believe that as our children grow into adulthood, they are responsible for their own actions. But before that day, it all starts with us.
Look, I want to see justice done here. An eye for an eye—if that’s what the going rate is these days. But I also have to ask myself will that make things right? Will that give the victim back her sense of self? No, that damage is done. And nothing on God’s green earth can alter that fact. But, taking my cue from the victim’s graceful letter: “We both have a choice. We can let this destroy us. I can remain angry and hurt and you can be in denial, or we can face it head on. I accept the pain. You accept the punishment, and we move on.”
In a few days, a few weeks, because we have the attention span of ants, this story will become yesterday news. But for the Turner family and the victim and her family, the pain will remain front and center. Becoming the trajectory from which they pivot and jump until enough time, enough love, and enough forgiveness lightens the load.
It is my fervent hope that this story and all those like it, don’t die. Instead let it be the beginning of an ongoing conversation with our sons, our daughters, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, husbands, lovers and friends. The spark of real change on the road going forward.
Because if not, then what the hell was it all for?
Over the past weekend I had the honor of speaking at two book clubs in New Jersey. Two groups of wonderful women where I immediately felt the sense of sisterhood and where something very unexpected, something spiritually moving transpired out of the discussion of my book. Up until this point, I was aware that The Bad Girl had an impact upon some women who were victims of sexual violence, but I didn’t realize to what extent. I cannot fully articulate the emotion that welled inside me when several women came forward with their stories, other than to say it made me recognize in a more personal, deeper way, the true power of words—my words—and how phenomenal they can be when used for good.
Every year, millions of women and girls worldwide suffer violence, be it domestic violence, rape, female genital mutilation/cutting, dowry-related killing, trafficking, sexual violence in conflict-related situations, or other manifestations of abuse.*
In the United States, every 6.2 minutes there is a reported rape.**
On that note, I will end with one final thought: the world can be a cruel place. But it can also be a beautiful place if we just rise as heroes and do our part.