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The Courage of Emily Doe, Stanford Victim and Survivor

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.

Joe Biden offers his support for Emily Doe.

Joe Biden offers his support for Emily Doe.

Shining a Light on Victims (Again)

There was a lot of talk of rape victims in 2015–2016, what with the accusers of comedian Bill Cosby and Donald Trump coming forward, but perhaps the most powerful of these alleged victims of rape is Emily Doe, the anonymous victim in the Stanford rape case. The Stanford University rape case saw swimming star Brock Turner found guilty of sexual assault, for which he received a scant and shameful six months from Judge Aaron Persky. Following a successful recall effort, Persky was recalled from his seat in 2018.

It was the powerful victim impact statement of Emily Doe that supercharged the discussion about rape victims, though. In very blunt terms, she faced her accuser and told him succinctly about what she'd had to endure in the days after the attack and will continue to endure throughout her life. This remarkable young woman was then recognized by Glamour as the one of the magazine's Women of the Year for 2016.

What Was the Stanford Rape Case?

For those who might be unfamiliar with the Stanford University rape case, Emily Doe was essentially found behind a dumpster with attacker Brock Turner; she was nearly unconscious and therefore able to consent to the sexual acts that Turner claimed he thought she'd consented to. Were it not for two young grad students who happened along on their bicycles, saw what was happening, and chose to intervene, who knows what may have occurred with Turner or his victim.

Doe's Riveting Statement

What makes the survivor in the Stanford rape case so memorable is that she faced down her attacker in court and read a victim impact statement that no one expected—a statement that was even read in full on CNN by Ashleigh Banfield, who deemed it "riveting" and "important".

Survivors, Not Victims

Perhaps of even greater note is that, now, Emily Doe is hoping she and other women like her will no longer be known as victims. "Victims are survivors, and survivors are going to be doing a hell of a lot more than surviving," she said in an essay written for Glamour.

She also noted that there was still hope out there that the human race didn't boil down to the violation that her attacker put her through. "When we all make it a priority to avoid harming or violating another human being, and when we hold accountable those who do, when the campaign to recall this judge declares that survivors deserve better, then we are going somewhere," she said.

A Voice for Survivors of Sexual Assault

Emily Doe admitted that she felt as though her influence was minimal following the ridiculously light sentence of six months that Brock Turner ultimately received—and he only served three months of that. Buzzfeed reached out to her in the aftermath of the sentencing, asking if they could publish her letter in full, and when she agreed, she admitted that she was nervous about what could happen, knowing full well that, once again, she was vulnerable.

She couldn't have foreseen the incredible outpouring of support she received. The letter very quickly went viral and was followed by her recognition as a Glamour Women of the Year recipient.

It's a terrible way to become a hallmark of courage and bravery, to have gone through what this young woman did. She is, however, demonstrating to the world that she is not going to continue to "end up," and suggests that victims of sexual assault should not either.

She is a survivor, in every sense of the word, and she is absolutely correct when she says that she is going to do "a hell of a lot more than surviving."

Empowering and Inspiring Others

While no parent would want their child to be a victim of sexual assault—or of any other sort of assault, for that matter—there is something very empowering about how Emily Doe handled the trial and its aftermath. There was never once any point where we saw this young woman cower in the corner, though it's certain there are times even now where she likely would not mind that.

She stood up in a court of law, like countless sexual assault victims before her, and she faced down her attacker. She made it clear that she would not let him hide behind his apparently stellar reputation as an athlete, nor would she let him avoid her. She was done with that, and she was using her words to make it clear that she did not intend for him to walk away before she had her say.

It was an incredibly powerful say, too—one which was incredibly harrowing to read, but one which hopefully inspired many who have struggled for that sense of self following something as brutally invasive as a sexual assault.

Emily Doe will live with what happened for the rest of her life, but as a survivor, it will be interesting to see what inspiration she continues to offer other survivors.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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