The childhood friend of Stanford University student Brock Turner, who was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, is the most recent of many who have come forward and penned a letter on Turner’s behalf. In the letter to Judge Aaron Persky, who served Turner a sentence of six months in county jail, 20-year-old Leslie Rasmussen blames political correctness for Turner’s rape accusations.
"I don’t think it’s fair to base the fate of the next ten + years of his life on the decision of a girl who doesn’t remember anything but the amount she drank to press charges against him," Rasmussen wrote, per a copy of the letter obtained by The Cut. "I am not blaming her directly for this, because that isn’t right. But where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn’t always because people are rapists."
Rasmussen is not alone in that thinking. In a study conducted in the paper, "Denying Rape but Endorsing Forceful Intercourse: Exploring Differences Among Responders," 32 percent of college male participants admitted "they would have intentions to force a woman to sexual intercourse" in the case that "nobody would ever know and there wouldn’t be any consequences."
In another part of the same study, the word "rape" was used to describe forcing a woman to have sex to the 32 percent of participants who said they would, and only 13.6 percent of those admitted to "any intentions to rape a woman." This would seem to indicate that only 13.6 percent of polled students understood that forcing a woman to have sexual intercourse is rape.
That same confusion around what constitutes non-consensual sex was echoed in Rasmussen's letter to Judge Persky. "This is completely different from a woman getting kidnapped and raped as she is walking to her car in a parking lot. That is a rapist," she wrote, echoing outdated tropes that rapes are committed by strangers in dark alleyways, despite the fact that most victims know their assailants. "These are not rapists. These are idiot boys and girls having too much to drink and not being aware of their surroundings and having clouded judgement."
In a 2014 White House report, "Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action," it was reported that 38 percent of women experienced their first rape between the ages of 18 and 24. "College students are especially at risk," said the report. "1 in 5 women has been sexually assaulted while in college." Of those, recent statistics from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center show more than 90 percent of campus sexual assault victims never report their attack. And in one study provided by NSVRC, more than 63 percent of men who "self-reported acts qualifying as rape or attempted rape" admitted that they'd done it or would do it again.
In a recent interview with the Washington Post, University of Arizona professor Mary Koss claims that one of the biggest problems surrounding sexual violence on campuses is either a lack of understanding or willful ignorance about what qualifies as sexual assault. Having originated the term "date rape" in the 1980s, as the Post points out, Koss reportedly found in a shocking 1987 study that "7.7 percent of male students reported anonymously they had forced or tried to force someone to have sex with them."
Much like the aforementioned students who participated in more recent polls, Koss said many failed to understand that meant rape. "You can put a college student rapist on a lie detector test and they will pass," she told the Post. "They sincerely do not believe what they did is rape."