Within the space of a summer, disgraced Stanford swimmer Brock Turner received an extremely lenient six-month jail sentence for rape and emerged in just under half that time. Turner was required to register as a sex offender, but he’s free to go about his life and build a future after blaming party culture for his actions. The same task isn’t so easy for the survivor of his crime, who he sexually assaulted behind a dumpster while she was unconscious.
During the sentencing phase of Turner’s trial, the woman known as Emily Doe presented an emotional letter to the court that went viral after Ashleigh Banfield read it aloud on CNN. The letter began, “You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today.” Her words resonated across airwaves and the internet, and ultimately, inspired change, which included closing the loophole in California law that allowed for Turner’s light punishment. Glamour magazine named Doe a Woman of the Year, and now Doe is speaking out in a personal essay:
“From the beginning, I was told I was a best case scenario. I had forensic evidence, sober unbiased witnesses, a slurred voice mail, police at the scene. I had everything, and I was still told it was not a slam dunk. I thought, if this is what having it good looks like, what other hells are survivors living? I’m barely getting through this but I am being told I’m the lucky one, some sort of VIP. It was like being checked into a hotel room for a year with stained sheets, rancid water, and a bucket with an attendant saying, No this is great! Most rooms don’t even have a bucket.”
Doe nearly shouted her letter at the court and was “struck silent” at Turner’s sentence, which seemed to her like a ruined summer vacation rather than an appropriate sentence. She soon received waves of support with a smattering of trolls who discovered photos of her and said, “She’s not pretty enough to have been raped.” Above it all, Doe received a wonderful letter from Joe Biden, who told her she was made of steel. And then this happened:
“When Ashleigh Banfield read my letter on the news I sat stunned watching her speak my words, imagining them being spoken on every television set in the nation. Watching women and men at Gracie Mansion, on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, girls in their rooms, gathered together to read each segment, holding my words in their voices. My body seemed too small to hold what I felt.”
These developments helped Doe move past a particularly damaging comment she heard in 2015 near the beginning of her ordeal: “Sad. I hope my daughter never ends up like her.” The rest of Doe’s essay describes how she moved past this stigma, and she has some choice words for Judge Aaron Perskey. By the end of the piece, every reader will be cheering for Emily Doe.