By Samantha Cooney
November 1, 2016
MOTTO
Samantha Cooney is the content strategy editor at TIME.

The woman who was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner doesn’t want you to see her as a victim.

The survivor, who has not been publicly identified, wrote a powerful essay for Glamour‘s “Women of the Year” issue about how she discovered a newfound strength after the public outrage at her assailant’s short sentence. Two witnesses saw Turner “thrusting” against an unconscious woman in January 2015. In June 2016, Turner, a former Stanford student, was convicted of three felony counts of sexual assault and sentenced to six months in jail. He was released three months early in September for “good behavior.”

The short sentence — along with a letter written by Turner’s father that called the punishment “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action” — drew broad furor from sexual assault prevention advocates, the general public and even Vice President Joe Biden. The case even led the California State Assembly to close a loophole in sentencing laws for sexual assault offenders.

At Turner’s sentencing in June, she read an emotional letter to Turner, which was later published on Buzzfeed and widely shared.

In her new essay, the survivor recalled being told by prosecutors before the trial that her case was “a best case scenario” — meaning that it had more evidence than a typical rape case, which are often considered difficult to successfully prosecute.

“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,” she wrote in Glamour. “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.”

“The violation of my body and my being added up to a few months out of his summer,” she wrote of Turner’s short sentence. “I began to panic; I thought, this can’t be the best case ­scenario. If this case was meant to set the bar, the bar had been set on the floor.”

She wrote in Glamour that she was initially hesitant to allow Buzzfeed to publish her letter, fearing that she was “making myself exposed and vulnerable again.” She was surprised when the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.

“But when my letter was published, no one turned away. No one said I’d rather not look, it’s too much, or too sad. Everyone pushed through the hard parts, saw me fully to the end, and embraced every feeling,” she wrote. “so now to the one who said, I hope my daughter never ends up like her, I am learning to say, I hope you end up like me, meaning, I hope you end up like me strong. I hope you end up like me proud of who I’m becoming. I hope you don’t “end up,” I hope you keep going. And I hope you grow up knowing that the world will no longer stand for this.”

“Victims are not victims, not some fragile, sorrowful aftermath,” she continued. “Victims are survivors, and survivors are going to be doing a hell of a lot more than surviving.”

Read her full essay in Glamour.

 

Write to Samantha Cooney at samantha.cooney@time.com.

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