I don’t know how to react to the recent news involving Brock Turner and his “20 minutes of action” other than to be outraged.
I am outraged at Turner for not only sexually attacking an unconscious human being, but also for not taking responsibility for his actions. I am outraged by the letter his father wrote to the judge, asking for leniency for his son’s transgressions and to not ruin his life with a long prison sentence. Given the response to this story on social media and news outlets, I am far from being the only one to feel this way.
I know there has been a lot written about this incident and people are beginning to feel fatigued on the topic, but hear me out.
You see, I am a mom of two boys.
They are young – now ages five years and 18 months – but they are both old enough to begin to understand wrong from right, and how to treat others in this world. They are old enough to learn how to take responsibility for their actions, whether it is taking a toy from each other, or hurting someone’s feelings. My husband and I work our butts off to make sure our children grow up treating people, animals, and things with respect. Do they always? Of course not! They are too young to understand what it all means. It is our job to teach them. It is our job to help them learn.
It is our job not to make excuses for them, but instead to turn setbacks into learning moments and move their thinking forward.
My older son is also old enough to understand the concept of “private areas.” We tell him how only mommy and daddy, his pediatrician, and the school nurse are allowed to see or touch his private areas. We talk about how it is the same way for his friends. We are working on teaching him that if someone doesn’t want to be hugged, to back off and give that person space. As you can imagine, this is difficult for a five year old to understand, because who doesn’t want a hug? We teach him to respect boundaries, and to understand that “no thanks” means “don’t hug this person right now.” It seems simple, but this is a concept Brock Turner did not understand.
In learning the details of this case and reading the victim’s letter, all I felt was anger. Anger that here we are as parents, working with our children to raise them with values, and Brock Turner’s father is able to write a letter asking a judge not to ruin his 20 year olds son’s life over “20 minutes of action.”
My husband made a point – that we can’t judge this father for writing a letter, because we are not in his shoes, and it is difficult to say what we would do if we (heaven forbid) ever found ourselves in the same situation. “True” I agreed with him, as he is apt to bring up different viewpoints for different sides of an argument. But I do know, and would like to think that yes, while I might write a letter, I would in no way excuse my child’s behavior, or take lightly the effect his actions had on another human being and her family.
So now I know what we must do.
I know that not only do we need to teach our children, our beautiful boys, to be kind, respectful, and honest human beings, but someday, someday we will also have to teach them that other people are not. We will help them learn that even though other people are not always kind and respectful, it is still their job to remain true to themselves and to know wrong from right. And though this story is horrific, one part that brings me hope is the two young men that caught Turner and intervened. These young men are the role models, the helpers. These are the people we will bring to our sons’ attention.