“What is this, 1950? My God. We should be so beyond this.”
Brenda Kensler took a break from setting up chairs in preparation for a staged reading Wednesday night of the 7,000-plus-word letter of “Emily Doe,” the young woman raped by former Stanford University student Brock Turner after a party a year ago.
“Everyone is saying, ‘What would you do if that was your daughter?’” Kensler continued. “But the question should be, ‘What would you do if that were your son?’ And nobody said that. … The only thing that causes rape is a rapist.”
Ever since a California judge a few days ago sentenced Turner to serve six months in a county jail (the maximum sentence would have been 14 years in state prison), the nation has been reeling over the culture of campus rape and the injustice of a legal system that blames victims for their own sexual violations (What was she wearing? How much did she drink?).
Moreover, the incident has reinvigorated debates over perceived bias in the sentencing—why a white, wealthy suburban kid was handed a six-month “timeout” compared to the harsher penalties meted to young men of color.
And so, about 15 women gathered at the Laboratory Theater of Florida to video themselves reading the victim’s letter to Turner. They want to keep the public’s attention on the case and rally the community to speak out.
“When is enough enough?” asked Kenyc McCoy of Fort Myers. “It gets to the point where you have to do something.”
The project is the brainchild of Tamara Paquette, a self-described lifelong activist, who called Turner’s sentencing a “watershed moment” that compelled her to act. Paquette, who is also running for Collier County Commission, established a Facebook page, 20 Minutes of Action for Emily Doe, on which the video will appear. The page’s name references the words of Turner’s father, who, in a widely derided statement, told the judge his son should not be unduly punished for “20 minutes of action.”
“How many Emily Does are out there who saw the verdict and thought, ‘Because of this I am never coming forward?’” Paquette wondered.
Laboratory Theater founder Annette Trossbach rushed to volunteer when she learned of Paquette’s call to action. Her company routinely uses theater to take on social justice issues.
“Theater is a stage where people’s voices can be heard, and we can bring people together,” Trossbach said.
Paquette is organizing another event on Saturday. She plans to hold public readings of Emily Doe’s letter at various Collier County locations between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. She expects to finalize the locations by this evening and will post details to her Facebook page.
“They tried to strip Emily Doe of her dignity and she denied them that prize, and I support that. We are going to use that strength to be a light and a beacon for other women and men,” Paquette said, acknowledging male victims of sexual assault. “This woman took the time to write down her feelings—it makes you, it makes me, it makes everyone of us Emily Doe.”