Yes Virginia, You Can Ruin Your Own Life in 20 Minutes

If you’ve been on the internet at all in the last week or so, you’ve probably read the story about a Stanford swimmer who was convicted of rape after assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. The young woman penned an amazingly painful letter about the experience and aftermath, in which she expresses anger and dismay that her attacker was only sentenced to 6 months in jail. I’m somewhat heartened that the young man was convicted, but overall the situation has been a repeat of all the things that are wrong with the way our justice system treats rape: the young man’s potential was considered more important than the damage he did to the young woman, her alcohol consumption, dress, and prior behavior were all dragged through the mud to show she wanted it, and the young man’s background was considered enough of a “character witness” to suggest he deserved some leniency (he went to Stanford. He was a swimmer. Apparently this is enough to make you not a very bad rapist).

I was going to stay quiet because the young woman in question had articulated everything so well I didn’t think there was anything I could add. And then Swimmer McDouchecanoe’s dad had to speak up and make everything so much worse. “His 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.”

Here are some things that can happen in 20 minutes:

  1. Someone can put themselves or an object inside of you that you did not consent to. You might have physical reactions to intimacy for years or the rest of your life afterwards. You might develop PTSD. You might be labeled a slut, and your reputation might be trashed. The incident will probably stick with you forever. You might become isolated, or it might destroy your relationships.
  2. Someone can break your bones, cut you, or beat you. You might develop long term disabilities or chronic pain. You may develop anxiety about going places alone, or find it impossible to trust people anymore. If your injuries are bad enough, you might lose your job, or be incapable of getting hired due to disabilities.
  3. Someone can drop a nuclear bomb and literally kill thousands of people.
  4. Someone can shoot another person and kill them. Someone can shoot many people and kill them. Someone can permanently injure any number of people by shooting them.

You might be drunk while doing any of these things (probably not the bomb one. I don’t think they give drunk presidents access to the Big Red Button). But no matter what your state while doing them, they have impacts. All of these incidents have lifelong consequences, some of them for many, many people. The idea that the amount of time it takes to complete an action is what decides how influential that action is makes exactly 0 amounts of sense. Being sworn in as president takes less time than it took Asshole McButts to leave someone with a permanent emotional scar.

Actions have consequences. If you can ruin someone else’s life in 20 minutes, then you sure as hell can ruin your own.

And yes, I understand the idea that we should forgive each other and that one mistake or bad choice shouldn’t be enough to ruin someone’s life. People should be allowed to move on. Of course that’s not really how our criminal justice system works, but it also doesn’t take into account the fact that you don’t just accidentally rape someone. It comes from a background that leads to the conclusion that someone else’s body exists for your uses. Choices that can destroy someone else’s life don’t just come out of nowhere, even if they only take a brief amount of time to enact.

So no, Daddy Douchecanoe, I don’t feel bad that your son has to do six months of jail time for 20 minutes of action. I feel bad that his 20 minutes of action have left someone else with enough trauma to last a lifetime, who doesn’t get to leave jail and go back to living her life. There is no end date to the jail of PTSD. One action can affect a life, but unfortunately she didn’t get to choose that action. He did. That’s why he’s responsible enough to serve his damn time.

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