CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield Shows The Media How To Report On Sexual Assault

CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield Shows The Media How To Report On Sexual Assault

››› ››› SHARON KANN

Following public outrage over the lenient sentencing of convicted rapist and former Stanford University student Brock Turner, CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield dedicated five consecutive days of coverage to the case. In those five days, Banfield featured the words of the woman Turner attacked and brought on guests to discuss the severity of sexual violence, demonstrating how the media should report on sexual assault and rape.

Public Reacts To Letter From Stanford Rape Survivor After Lenient Sentencing Of Her Attacker, Brock Turner

Huff. Post: “Many People Are Appalled” At Brock Turner’s “Light Sentencing” After Reading Woman’s Statement. Huffington Post women’s editor Alanna Vagianos explained the public controversy surrounding the Stanford University rape case in a June 6 article, writing that “many people are appalled” at former Stanford student Brock Turner’s “light sentencing.” Despite being “found guilty of three felony sexual assault charges in March 2016,” Turner was sentenced to only “six months in county jail.” According to Vagianos, the public outrage can be explained in part by the “gut-wrenching letter” written and read aloud by the woman Turner attacked in court on the day of his sentencing. Her letter was published in full by BuzzFeed, where it had been read by “almost 5 million people” as of June 6. [Huffington Post, 6/6/16]

In Five Days Of Coverage, Ashleigh Banfield Demonstrates How To Report On Sexual Assault

1. June 6, 2016

Banfield Dedicated Entire Program To Reading Stanford Survivor’s Letter Because “It Is Important” That People Hear It. Following the publication of the Stanford rape survivor’s letter, CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield dedicated the entirety of the June 6 edition of Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield to reading the woman’s account. Banfield explained to viewers that although the letter was “difficult to hear,” they should listen because “it is riveting and it is important” to hear about the issue of sexual assault in the survivor’s own words. Banfield noted that although judge Aaron Persky “chose a lesser sentence” out of concern for Turner’s well-being, the real concern should be for the survivor. In response, Banfield asked: “But what about the impact the crime has had on the victim?” From the June 6 edition of Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield:

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD (HOST): I'm going to begin our program today with a gut-wrenching story that has gone viral, a story that we will spend most of this special and highly unusual hour sharing with you. It is a rape victim's letter to her attacker, and I will warn you now that this is graphic, this is difficult to hear, it is lengthy, but stick with us because it is riveting and it is important. The case involves a former Stanford University swimmer named Brock Turner, 20 years old. He was sentenced on Thursday to just six months in the county jail and three years’ probation for three counts of sexual assault. On January 18, 2015, right after midnight, two Stanford grad students were biking across campus and spotted a freshman thrusting himself on an unconscious half-naked woman behind a dumpster at a party. The cyclists are truly heroes in this story. They tackled Brock Turner until the police arrived. In March this year, a jury in California found Brock Turner guilty. He had faced a maximum of 14 years in the state penitentiary. But last week the judge, Aaron Persky, chose a lesser sentence, in part because he feared anything longer would have a severe impact on Turner. But what about the impact the crime has had on the victim?

We are hearing from her now. Her impact statement just released over the weekend, and we will be reading most of it to you this hour. We've had to take out parts that are just too graphic for television, and we’ve had to cut some for time as well. So, with that in mind, here is part one where it all begins.

[...]

BANFIELD: She concludes the letter by thanking the hospital intern who made her oatmeal, the deputy who waited beside her, the nurses who calmed her, the detective who listened to her, her advocates, her boss, her incredible parents, as she calls them, her friends, her boyfriend, her “unconquerable” sister, and then this quote: “Most importantly, thank you to the two men who saved me, who I have yet to meet. I sleep with two bicycles that I drew taped above my bed to remind myself there are heroes in this story. That we are looking out for one another. To have known all of these people, to have felt their protection and love, is something I will never forget. [CNN, Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield, via Media Matters, 6/6/16]

2. June 7, 2016

Banfield: Attitude Of Turner’s “Character References” Were Reminiscent Of “When People Stood Up For People Who Were Drunk Drivers … And Said They Had Good Character.” In an interview with Santa Clara County deputy district attorney Alaleh Kianerci, the prosecutor in the case, Banfield discussed the attitude conveyed in Brock Turner’s “character references.” Banfield said that although she understood the plea for leniency from Turner’s loved ones, their attitudes toward his actions and the survivor were reminiscent of “when people stood up for people who were drunk drivers who hurt and killed people -- in court -- and said they had good character.” Kianerci agreed, calling the comparison to drunk driving allegations “an excellent analogy” because “it took a while for the community to appreciate that good people commit horrible, offensive crimes that hurt people.” From the June 7 edition of Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield (emphasis added):

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD (HOST): My next question involves reading some other material, some other letters that were presented to the court from Brock's father, and his mother, and then from a friend of his. I understand the character references that often come into play upon sentencing, the request for leniency for those who believed in him, who knew him a long time, and I understand that. And I am sympathetic to family members who love their sons and want the best for them. It is difficult to hear some of this, though.

Dan Turner is Brock Turner's father. He made the infamous comment now in court that this is “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of 20-plus years of life.” Carleen Turner, again in a horrible situation -- it's her son, obviously she doesn't want her son in a penitentiary. She said, “I beg of you, please don't send him to jail or prison. Look at him. He won't survive it. He will be damaged forever, and I fear he would be a major target. Stanford boy, college kid, college athlete -- all the publicity. This would be a death sentence for him.” And I think maybe the one that stood out maybe the most, other than the father's letter, was Leslie Rasmussen, a friend of Brock Turner's, who wrote this to the judge: “I don't think it's fair to base the fate of the next 10-plus years of his life on the decision of a girl who doesn't remember anything about the amount she drank to press charges against him. I'm 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.”

I think that one sort of shattered my faith in the process of trying to stand up for one's character. But it did make me harken back, Alaleh, to a day when people stood up for people who were drunk drivers who hurt and killed people -- in court -- and said they had good character, they never meant to hurt anyone -- they just had too many cocktails after the party and they made a foolish decision. Today, we sentence them anyway. We don't care if they are judges, if they are doctors; we do not care if they are scout leaders. If they hurt someone or they killed someone, that's all we care about. But it does not seem this is translating right now when it comes to hurting and impeding lives of sex assault survivors. Is this survivor in this case helping to turn the page to a new era where this would be considered the same as drinking and driving?

ALALEH KIANERCI: I think, Ashleigh, that’s an excellent analogy. Drinking and driving, as you mentioned, it took a while for the community to appreciate that good people commit horrible, offensive crimes that hurt people, and in fact, the M.A.D.D -- Mothers Against Drunk Driving -- movement helped to spearhead the change in the dialogue in the community to accept drunk driving cases as very serious cases. And I think the victim's letter is so powerful, it can serve that same purpose. If I had any power, I would make the victim's letter required reading for college freshmen. I think her letter has the ability to deter sexual assaults. If her letter can't, Ashleigh, I don't know what will. [CNN, Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield, 6/7/16]

Banfield Invited Survivor Brenda Tracy To Discuss The Misguided Use Of Alcohol As An Excuse For Assault And The Importance Of Hearing “A Survivor’s Voice.” In the same edition of Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield, Banfield invited sexual assault survivor Brenda Tracy to discuss the importance of the Stanford survivor’s letter. According to Tracy, many people don’t take sexual assault “as seriously as they should until they actually hear a survivor’s voice and hear us explaining in detail what we’ve gone through and what we have to endure.” Banfield and Tracy also discussed consent and the role alcohol plays in many assaults. Tracy added, “alcohol is absolutely not an excuse.” From the June 6 edition of Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield (emphasis added):

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD (HOST): My first question is about the bravery of this survivor, this co-survivor of yours. That it's a mixed blessing when we read her words. Because we are now painfully aware of her suffering, but painful awareness is often what starts change, and I wanted to get your thoughts on that.

BRENDA TRACY: First, I would like to just reiterate what everyone else is saying that she's extremely courageous and her words are so powerful and so moving. And she's done so much for the movement just by writing this letter and all of us having the opportunity to experience what she's experiencing. Because I don't think that people really take this as seriously as they should until they actually hear a survivor's voice and hear us explaining in detail what we've gone through and what we have to endure after an attack like this.

BANFIELD: I want to read you something that she also wrote that I think resonated with a lot of people when it comes to the sentencing and the actual crime itself. It came with two witnesses. This is so rare in a rape. But this crime came with two witnesses and she said: “Two guys on bikes noticed I wasn't moving in the dark and had to tackle you. How did you not notice while on top of me? You said you would have stopped and gotten me help. You said that, but I want you to explain how you would have helped me, step by step. Walk me through this. I want to know, if those evil Swedes had not found me, how the night would have played out.”

She was unconscious, according to witnesses, and yet still, Brock Turner does not acknowledge that she was unconscious when he was having sex with her, which is the crime we're talking about. It is impossible to give consent if someone is unconscious, and you don't go from perfectly consentable to unconscious in a heartbeat. There's a lot of time in between that. And this is what I wonder, if you believe that this is going to start to become acutely evident among people in America, young people in particular, and those who maybe don't understand that just because you're both drinking doesn't mean it's OK.

TRACY: Yeah, alcohol is absolutely not an excuse. And I'm not quite sure why in these specific cases of sexual assault, we still allow alcohol to be an excuse, because I think it's the only crime where we try to explain it by the use of alcohol. But the truth of the matter is, is that there has to be some sort of intent, or idea, or thought by that person in the beginning and then alcohol just takes away their inhibitions. I absolutely believe that Brock Turner already had these ideas, or he felt entitled, and if drinking was a factor, then all it did was just take away his inhibitions for him to act out what he thought he was entitled to anyways.

But I do -- this is a scenario that happens a lot. Especially on college campuses. And I'm hoping that this will serve as an example that this is not OK. And that people will start opening their eyes and realizing that this is happening a lot and we have to stop this. [CNN, Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield, 6/7/16]

During Panel, Banfield Described Case As “A Snapshot Of The Rape Culture In America” While Guests Called For An End To “Making Excuses For It.” In the final segment of the June 7 edition of Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield, Banfield hosted Daily Beast columnist Sally Kohn and CNN commentator Mel Robbins to discuss reactions to Brock Turner’s sentencing. During the segment, Banfield described the case as “a snapshot of the rape culture in America.” Robbins said calls for leniency in Turner’s sentencing “points to a much larger problem” in which “people think that when you drink alcohol, somehow it absolves you of any kind of liability of committing a violent sexual crime.” Kohn added that the attitude among Turner’s supporters is not “an aberration” and that it is time to stop “making excuses for” sexual assault. From the June 7 edition of Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield (emphasis added):

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD (HOST): If you ever wanted a snapshot of the rape culture in America, look no further than the attack of a young woman on the campus of Stanford University in early 2015. Weeks ago, just before sentencing, family and friends of the convicted rapist, Brock Turner, came to his defense, understandably. Among them, a childhood friend who wrote this to the judge, and I quote: “This is completely different from a woman getting kidnapped and raped as she's walking to her car in a parking lot. That is a rapist. 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 judgment.” Now juxtapose that with the words of the survivor that she delivered to the court in her impact statement. And again, I will quote her: “You have been convicted of violating me with malicious intent and all you can admit to is consuming alcohol. Do not talk about the sad way your life was upturned because of alcohol, that it made you do bad things. Figure out how to take responsibility for your own conduct.”

[...]

MEL ROBBINS: Luckily, a jury of 12 disagreed with the childhood friend's statement, convicted him of three felonies -- he’s now going to be a registered sex offender -- and look, we could play armchair psychologist and chalk up her statement as a young woman who’s trying to rationalize the behavior of a convicted sex offender with the kid that she knew growing up. But the truth of the matter is that it points to a much larger problem. And that is people think that when you drink alcohol, somehow it absolves you of any kind of liability of committing a violent sexual crime against a defenseless victim. And the fact is that it's not alcohol that rapes women. It's men that do. And we need to start to talk not only to young women, Ashleigh, but I think more importantly, we have got to get men involved in this conversation. I printed out that victim's incredible 12-page letter -- not for my daughters to read, Ashleigh, but for my husband to read and for our son to read when he's old enough to understand it. Because men have to be taught at a young age how to treat women. And this idea that alcohol is somehow an explanation or an excuse for criminal behavior is absolutely insane.

[...]

BANFIELD: Sally Kohn, I can’t stress enough I think this woman’s words may be the tipping point because they’re resonating so far and wide with so many different demos.

SALLY KOHN: I think that's right and I want to applaud her for her bold statement and I'm so glad that it was made public, and also more and more women are coming out and sharing stories like hers for the first time out of horror with this judgment. But, you know, I don't think Brock Turner’s friend is an aberration. I think that part of it is we want to explain it away. These women want to think, “Oh, that's what rape is. It's not something that could happen to you,” or that “these ‘nice guys’ I know don't end up doing horrible things.” Well let me tell you, the nice guy next door ends up beating his wife. The nice guy at work can be a rapist. This notion -- most rape happens is acquaintance rape.

BANFIELD: Eighty percent of it, right?

KOHN: I have to say, this is also where -- her part about how she blamed political correctness for sentencing him. Come on. Brock Turner is to blame for what happened here. And if his swimming career, if his steak time with his dad has suffered, well boohoo, shouldn't have done what he did. And this sort of notion that we should sort of pity him, it's related -- it is very much related to -- the men's rights and by extension, the conservative movement in general for the last several years has attacked this notion that there is rape culture, has attacked this idea that we're getting too politically correct on campuses by trying to educate boys and girls about sexual assault and safety and responsibility and said, “oh no, no, we're turning boys into -- they’re too careful now,” and “everything is rape now.” This is what happens --

BANFIELD: It had been rape for a long time. Everything’s been rape for a long time.

KOHN: This is what happens. George Will in a Washington Post column attacked this sort of “alleged crisis” of sexual assault. Well, this is what we're talking about when we’re talking about sexual assault. It is wrong. It is far too prevalent. And this culture we've had in this country in politics of masking it, and masquerading it, and making excuses for it, it's time it ends. [CNN, Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield, 6/7/16]

3. June 8, 2016

Banfield Invited ESPN’s Mike Golic To Discuss Similar Situations Of Leniancy In Sports. On the June 8 edition of Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield, Banfield invited ESPN’s Mike Golic to discuss his choice to use “his ESPN platform to express his outrage” about Turner’s minimal sentence. Pointing to another ongoing campus sexual assault scandal -- involving the Baylor University football team -- Golic explained the unfortunate frequency of cases like Brock Turner’s. He said, “I come from the world of the sports world … [where] time and time again … we do see the rich at times, privileged athlete or privileged family get leniency” for acts of sexual violence. Golic also said  he was “appalled” that neither Turner nor  his father -mentioned the impact of Turner’s actions on the woman he assaulted.. From the June 8 edition of Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield (emphasis added):

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD (HOST): She has a lot of people in her corner from all backgrounds, from all walks of life, all demographics, and one of them is Mike Golic, the co-host of Mike & Mike, who used his ESPN platform to express his outrage.

[...]

BANFIELD: I was very moved by your reaction and I couldn’t help thinking this is not the kind of thing that a sports program typically would tackle. And it sure doesn’t usually elicit that kind of a response. I want you to bring me to your feelings and your thoughts.

MIKE GOLIC: Well you’re right, normally it doesn’t -- and by the way, your reading of the young lady’s account was incredible as well. It was something else. As far as our show getting involved in that, unfortunately, Ashleigh, we had another situation now at Baylor where the president, Kenneth Starr, and the AD, Ian McCaw, and the head football coach, Art Briles, all don't have a job anymore because of the culture that we're finding out that was going on with Baylor and sexual assault.

In this situation, I just couldn't understand, and you would know more than I the legalities of the judge going from what could have been a 14-year sentence to the recommendation from the prosecution of a six-year, to six-month -- I know listening to the probation officers in this. But to say that it would be too severe an impact, isn't that what we're supposed to do when you do something as heinous as he did? Last I checked, three felony counts of sexual assault? Isn't that what we do? We punish for that and also make the punishment severe enough so that when we don't think about doing it again. It's two-fold, and in this case, it's no-fold. So that aggravated me and then the father -- and I'm a father of three, and one is a daughter who just graduated from college -- and so I understand the love of a father for your child, but I was, I was appalled at Dan Turner, Brock's father, his letter.

Not one time did he mention her. All we read about was how he can't eat anymore. Brock can’t eat. Brock can't sleep. Brock's life has changed. Guess who's else life has changed? Brock was the cause, and this young lady is the effect of what happened. And I was just blown away that her, she wasn't brought up at all in any of this. It was all about Brock -- let’s be lenient on him from the sentencing. Brock, his life is going to change now. OK. But Brock did this. And he still won't admit to doing this, even though he was convicted, but Brock did this and it well on its way to ruining a young lady's life .And I was just stunned that there was no mention of this at all. And I come from the world of the sports world, Ashleigh. Time and time again, where we do see the rich at times, privileged athlete or privileged family get leniency in situations as well, and we deal with what's their effect when that person would get back on the field or the court or the ice or whatever the situation may be, but this one just struck me as a complete thoughtlessness of the victim in this situation. [CNN, Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield, 6/8/16]

Banfield Read A Letter To Turner’s Father Explaining That His Son “Is Not The Victim Here. His Victim Is The Victim.” Banfield also included North Carolina pastor John Pavlovitz’s letter to Brock Turner’s father in her coverage of the Stanford University case. Reading an excerpt from Pavlovitz’s letter, Banfield emphasized the importance of not giving overly sensitive coverage to the accused in cases of sexual assault. She quoted Pavlovitz: “Brock is not the victim here. His victim is the victim. … If his life has been ‘deeply altered,’ it is because he has horribly altered another human being, because he made the reprehensible choice to take advantage of someone for his own pleasure.” From the June 8 edition of Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield:

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD (HOST): There is another letter on the Stanford rape case that is going viral right now and this time, it is from a dad. And it is to Brock Turner's dad. John Pavlovitz is a pastor from Raleigh, North Carolina, and he posted the letter on his blog, and I want you to listen for a moment to some of the things that he has said in this case: “I need you to understand something, and I say this as a father who dearly loves my son as much as you must love yours: Brock is not the victim here. His victim is the victim. She is the wounded one. He is the damager. If his life has been ‘deeply altered,’ it is because he has horribly altered another human being, because he made a reprehensible choice to take advantage of someone for his own pleasure.” [CNN, Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield, 6/8/16]

4. June 9, 2016

Banfield And Former State Supreme Court Justice Discussed Consent And The Importance Of Bystander Intervention. In her fourth consecutive day of covering the topic of campus sexual assault, Banfield invited former New York state Supreme Court Justice Leslie Crocker Snyder to discuss the Stanford University case. Crocker Snyder noted that the Stanford case is an example “where there’s been bystander intervention, which is a big point we’ve been focusing on.” Crocker Snyder concluded that to address sexual assault, “This is what has to happen -- bystanders have to intervene.” From the June 9 edition of Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield (emphasis added):

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD (HOST): What is so fascinating about this case, and if anybody takes anything away from it, it is the issue of consent and when a human being is not able to give consent. So when you are inebriated -- male or female -- you cannot legally give consent for sexual relations. Brock Turner argued in this case and lost -- the jury found unanimously he lost this argument -- he wasn’t sure when she became unconscious in their -- whatever you want to call what happened between them that night.

But I want to show you some of the things that we’ve discovered from court documents in terms of what those first responders had to do when they found her the way she was, the same way that witnesses found her. They did a shake and shout method, they did a physical pain stimulant on her to try to get her to regain consciousness, and then they had to place an IV in her. With all of those kinds of methods to get that survivor to respond, she was still unconscious. She was taken to the hospital unconscious, she was strapped to a gurney unconscious, and it was upwards of three to four hours before she regained consciousness. The reason I bring up that fact is because Brock Turner said, “at some point, I don’t know where, she became unconscious.” And I just don’t understand how it could escape a judge that you don’t go from perfectly consentable behavior to that condition without stumbling, falling, tripping, throwing up, et cetera.

LESLIE CROCKER SNYDER: It’s a ridiculous argument, but the defendant’s entire case might have been somewhat absurd in terms of what to believe. But you know what I find fascinating also? We all know that college campus rape and sexual assault has become a huge issue because it’s been so badly handled. This is one of the few cases I’ve seen where there’s been bystander intervention, which is a big point we’ve been focusing on.

BANFIELD: Witnesses --

CROCKER SNYDER: You need bystander -- most people don’t want to get involved. This is what has to happen -- bystanders have to intervene. [CNN, Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield, 6/9/16]

Banfield Called Survivor’s Letter “A Teaching Moment” Necessary To “Stop This Story From Repeating.” In her final segment about the Stanford University case during the June 9 edition of Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield, Banfield said the survivor’s letter was “a teaching moment for everyone who has seen this story … to educate about the key issues … and stop this story from repeating.” CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen agreed and discussed her own experience “talking to parents about what their plans are for their sons and for their daughters with this letter.” Banfield added that the letter can teach a valuable less to men: “Don’t put your keys in an ignition if you are drunk and do not go forward with a young woman if she is drunk.” From the June 9 edition of Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield (emphasis added):

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD (HOST): I said it before, I’m going to say it again -- this is a learning moment, a teaching moment for everyone who has seen this story and who is talking about this story to educate about the key issues of this story and stop this story from repeating.

ELIZABETH COHEN: Ashleigh, that's so right, and I’ve been talking to parents about what their plans are for their sons and for their daughters with this letter. I have especially been talking to parents of daughters. This letter is this incredible gift, in a way, from this woman. It is a silver lining, if you can think of it that way, of the horrific experience that sh’s had, and it’s a great opportunity to show your daughters you are young and you feel invincible and you’re at a party and you think that you are among friends, and that may be true, but it may also be true that something like this could happen to you. This -- it's very difficult to teach teenagers that something bad can happen to them -- but this letter, if anything can, this letter would be it. It is possibly the most powerful piece of writing ever about rape and having this available to everyone right there on the internet can be this really useful teachable moment for parents.

BANFIELD: Yeah, and I will go one step further. Teachable moment for parents to share with daughters, but maybe even more so to read to their sons. Because if their sons believe that because a girl is amorous with them it means consent, not if she is drunk, period. Not if she is drunk. The law will not be on your side. Prepare for it now. Don't put your keys in an ignition if you are drunk and do not go forward with a young woman if she is drunk. The law is not on your side. Repeat it in your families. Repeat it to your sons. Tell your daughters. This is true. This is happening. This is a crisis. You can stop it. [CNN, Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield, 6/9/16]

5. June 10, 2016

Banfield Read Vice President Joe Biden’s Letter To The Stanford Survivor: “You Are A Warrior With A Solid Steel Spine.” In her fifth consecutive day of coverage, Banfield dedicated time during the June 10 edition of Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield to reading a letter from Vice President Joe Biden to the Stanford survivor: “You are a warrior with a solid steel spine. … You have helped changed the culture. You have shaken untold thousands out of the torpor and indifference toward sexual violence that allowed this problem to continue.” From the June 10 edition of Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield (emphasis added):

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD (HOST): And this is a moment, folks. The Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, has decided to add his voice to the millions of you around the world who are coming out in support of the Stanford rape survivor. He did it by writing a powerful open letter to her that was posted on BuzzFeed. The vice president's efforts to end violence against women go back decades, but he’s had some more outspoken moments only just recently. Have a look.

[...]

BANFIELD: He's been powerful before and he is certainly powerful now. If you’ll give me a moment, I want to read for you some excerpts of his letter to the survivor. He starts by saying: “I do not know your name, but your words are forever seared on my soul, words that should be required reading for men and women of all ages, words that I wish with all of my heart you never had to write. I'm in awe of your courage for speaking out, for so clearly naming the wrongs that were done to you and so passionately asserting your equal claim to human dignity. I am filled with furious anger both that this happened to you and that our culture is still so broken that you were ever put in the position of defending your own worth. I do not know your name -- but I see your unconquerable spirit. I see the limitless potential of an incredibly talented young woman, full of possibility.

I see the shoulders on which our dreams for the future rest. You are a warrior with a solid steel spine. I do not know your name. But I know that a lot of people failed you that terrible January night and in the months that followed. I do not know your name, but thanks to you, I know that heroes ride bicycles. That those two men who saw what was happening to you, who took it upon themselves to step in, they did what they instinctually knew to be right. You will never be defined by what the defendant’s father callously termed ‘20 minutes of action.’ His son will be.

I join your global chorus of supporters because we can never say enough to survivors: I believe you. It is not your fault. Your story has already changed lives. You have helped change the culture. You have shaken untold thousands out of the torpor and indifference toward sexual violence that allowed this problem to continue. Your words will help people you have never met and never will. You have given them the strength they need to fight and so I believe you will save lives. I do not know your name, but I will never forget you. The millions who have been touched by your story will never forget you.” [CNN, Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield, 6/10/16]

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Ashleigh Banfield
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Legal View with Ashleigh Banfield
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