Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Victimization of Sexual Assault Survivors

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

When the news broke that a Stanford University student, Brock Turner, was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster at a campus party, many thought he would be punished with a jail sentence that fit the crime.

After all, there was physical evidence, two witnesses and an admission of guilt - end of story.

Like many abusers before him, Turner refused to take responsibility for his actions. He blamed friends, teammates, society, a college campus culture and the victim for his predatory behavior.

His statement after his attack was just as appalling as his assault against his incapacitated victim. In a letter, Turner described his actions as “the product of a culture of drinking, peer pressure and sexual promiscuity.”

In court, the victim impact statement said it all, “I am not just a drunk victim at a frat party found behind a dumpster, while you are the All-American swimmer at a top university, innocent until proven guilty, with so much at stake. I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt, who waited a year to figure out if I was worth something.”

Regardless of Turner’s sentence, his victim will pay a much steeper price. 

Survivors of violent crime face an uphill battle to recovery. They are deeply impacted physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually, often feeling vulnerable and isolated. For sexual assault victims, the psychological trauma can be life-altering. 

Nothing can change what has happened. But there are services and programs in every county in California designed to help victims cope with the aftermath of sexual assault. At the California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP), we help pay for mental health counseling, medical and dental treatment, relocation, home security and income loss, among other expenses. Over the last five years, our program has helped over 23,000 victims of sexual assault and paid more than $16 million in benefits to help them heal. 

As the victim in this case stated, she is a “human being who has been irreversibly hurt.” She is someone who might feel guilt, shame and blame as well as low self-esteem for years. She is someone who has a long recovery road ahead of her, but with support from family, friends and medical professionals she will prevail. She is a survivor. 

Sexual assault touches more lives than many realize. It not only impacts the victim, it impacts immediate family, friends and the community. If you or a loved one needs help, there are dozens of resources to turn to in California and CalVCP is among them.

No victim should have to justify why they were at a party, in a car, sleeping with their bedroom window cracked open or drinking alcohol. An unconscious person being dragged around at 2 a.m. behind a dumpster is not a consenting or a willing partner. It doesn’t take an elite education to figure that out. 

Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.