Stanford Sexual Assault Survivor Speaks Out

"Some photos of me leaked and someone said, 'She's not pretty enough to have been raped.'"
by Mara Agner   |  Nov 3, 2016
Image: Millennium Films Art: Clare Magno
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It has been one year and 11 months since two Stanford University graduate students rescued an unconscious Emily Doe (not her real name) from being raped by Brock Allen Turner behind a dumpster. Eight months since Brock was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault. Five months since Emily read a painfully detailed account of her trauma and (with the permission of the presiding judge, Judge Persky) directly addressed it to Brock. Five months since Dan Turner read a plea for leniency on behalf of his son, stating how Brock's life has been altered and how it's a "steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action." Five months since Brock was sentenced to six months in county jail and probation, and with good behavior, he could be out of jail in three.

You'd think that after all the months that passed, stories that have been written, opinions that were shared, and injustice that was served, Emily's story would fade into the background and eventually be forgotten just like most survivor stories. Wrong. Five months later, Emily speaks out once again and she's trying to be stronger than ever. (via


"So when it was quickly announced that he'd be receiving six months, I was struck silent. Immediately I felt embarrassed for trying, for being led to believe I had any influence. The violation of my body and my being added up to a few months out of his summer. The judge would release him back to his life, back to the 40 people who had written him letters from Ohio. I began to panic; I thought, this can't be the best case scenario. If this case was meant to set the bar, the bar had been set on the floor."

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You see, surviving doesn't only mean making it out alive after being raped. It's not limited to being strong while reliving every single moment of that horrific incident in front of your abuser and the court. It's not just braving every single interrogation, name-calling, and prejudice. It's more than that. It's living your life despite knowing that it's never ever going to be the same again. It's finding peace within yourself that being raped was not your fault. It's working hard to be more than just a victim whom everyone feels sorry for. Being a survivor is a constant struggle and yet some people inconveniently add to that burden, too.


"There was, of course, the wee sprinkle of trolls. Some photos of me leaked and someone said, 'She's not pretty enough to have been raped.'

"In the very beginning of it all in 2015, one comment managed to lodge harmfully inside me: Sad. I hope my daughter never ends up like her. I absorbed that statement. Ends up. As if we end somewhere, as if what was done to me marked the completion of my story. Instead of being a role model to be looked up to, I was a sad example to learn from, a story that caused you to shield your daughter's eyes and shake your heads with pity. But when my letter was published, no one turned away. No one said I'd rather not look, it's too much, or too sad. Everyone pushed through the hard parts, saw me fully to the end, and embraced every feeling."


For someone who's suffering, someone who has to deal with the horrible aftermath, someone who is doing her best to stay afloat when she has every reason not to, how selfless can victims be to expose themselves and fight the very best way they can to survive and spread the word, not for their benefit but for everyone else who may also be at risk. And the most we can do to help is to either shut up when we have nothing good to say or simply make our presence felt, show support, or share her story with others to help spread awareness.

"I started getting e-mails forwarded to me from Botswana to Ireland to India. I received watercolor paintings of lighthouses and bicycle earrings. A woman who plucked a picture of her young daughter from the inside of her cubicle wrote, This is who you're saving."

"When I received an e-mail that Joe Biden had written me a letter I was sitting in my pajamas eating some cantaloupe. You are a warrior. I looked around my room, who is he talking to. You have a steel spine, I touched my spine. I printed his letter out and ran around the house flapping it in the air."


At the end of the day, don't we all want to live in a world where we won't have to experience being harmed or violated? For justice to be served fairly? And for survivors to have a lighter burden (if none at all) to carry? We can if we don't allow ourselves to be silenced anymore.

"When we all make it a priority to avoid harming or violating another human being, and when we hold accountable those who do, when the campaign to recall this judge declares that survivors deserve better, then we are going somewhere."

"Victims are not victims, not some fragile, sorrowful aftermath. Victims are survivors, and survivors are going to be doing a hell of a lot more than surviving."

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Mara Agner
Assistant Lifestyle and Features Editor
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