By Jill Tucker
For three decades, Rachel Norton never told anyone she was raped in college.
The San Francisco school board member didn’t tell her friends when it happened. She never told her mother. But late Sunday night, she decided to tell the world.
Norton had been reading about the six-month county jail sentence given to a former Stanford student, Brock Allen Turner, after his conviction on three felony counts of sexual assaulting a drunken and unconscious woman he met at a party on campus last year.
He could have served up to 14 years in prison. Prosecutors had recommended six.
Norton was infuriated, she said. And it brought back memories.
“I think my anger in this case is related to the fact that, like many women, I was raped by an acquaintance in college after a night of drinking,” she wrote on her SF Board of Education blog late Sunday night. “I never reported it, because the situation was consensual up to a point, until it wasn’t. I was confused enough, and drunk enough, that I could never completely make sense of what happened, even though I felt violated and ashamed after he left.”
For years, she didn’t think of the incident as rape even though she had said no. She wanted him to stop and tried to twist away, she said, but he pinned her down.
Like many women, Norton didn’t scream. She didn’t yell rape. She was silenced by shame.
“I think most women I know have had some experience like that,” she said Monday. “If you didn’t fight back you were complicit in the whole thing.”
Unlike in the Stanford case, Norton said she wasn’t bruised and bloodied from the assault.
“I felt guilty about it like it was my fault, so I didn’t do anything about it,” she said.
With more awareness on college campuses about the importance of affirmative consent — yes, and only yes, means yes — Norton believed times had changed. But despite Turner’s conviction, his sentencing indicates there’s still a blame-the-victim mindset that’s alive and well, she said.
“This incident really crystallized that things haven’t changed. It’s still her fault,” she said. “I just would have hoped we would have moved so much more from (the idea) a girl deserves it if she gets drunk or wears a short skirt.”
The victim in the Stanford case “didn’t do anything differently than I did in college,” Norton said.
“She’ll never shed it completely,” Norton wrote on her blog, “especially since Judge Aaron Persky looked at her, and looked at her attacker, Brock Allen Turner, and decided it was more important to protect his future than uphold justice for her.”
And so the school board member decided to tell her own story, to say out loud that alcohol isn’t an excuse. That no means no. And silence of any kind isn’t consent.
“It’s never fun to talk about something painful that happened to you,” she said. “I didn’t fight and I didn’t scream. But does that mean I wanted it? Does that mean I deserved it?”