Rape Culture: Why Are White, Male College Students Getting Away With Rape?

With all the furor from the notorious Stanford rape case and Brock Turner’s light sentencing, as well as the plea deal that dropped rape charges against Indiana University student John Enochs, you would think the public outrage and backlash would make judges stop and think about these light sentences. But apparently, that is not the case, as now yet another white college student has basically been given a free pass in raping an unconscious woman. This time, it was a University of Colorado college student who has essentially gotten away with rape, and believe it or not, this is even worse than the Brock Turner case.

Not only are the light rape sentences continuing but getting even lighter. This time, the perpetrator didn’t get a single day of prison time for raping a woman. Austin James Wilkerson admitted the sexual assault and initially said he assaulted her after she refused his advances earlier in the evening, which made him angry. So he told her friends he would take care of her when she became very intoxicated during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, then sexually assaulted her.

Stanford rape case protests [Photo by D. Ross Cameron/AP Images]According to The Guardian, Wilkerson told friends that night that he had “fingered a girl while passed out,” penetrating her orally and digitally before ejaculating on her stomach. Initially, Wilkerson told a university investigator that he had made “repeated advances on the victim, but that she rebuffed him each time,” and admitted he was “pissed off” when the assault occurred. He also referred to the victim as a “f*****g b***h” during his statement. But before his trial, he changed his story to say she was not unconscious and the contact was consensual, committing perjury, according to prosecutors.

“This defendant raped a helpless young woman… tried to cover up his crime, and then repeatedly lied about what he did – including under oath.”

Facing a sentence of four to 12 years, what was his sentence? Boulder County court district judge Patrick Butler ruled that Wilkerson would not serve any time in prison, but serve two years of “work release” and probation. That means Wilkerson is free to do what he wants during the day, but must check in at night for two years to county jail. No prison time, and he gets free housing at night. Butler lamented on how hard his decision was.

“I’ve struggled, to be quite frank, with the idea of, ‘Do I put him in prison?’ I don’t know that there is any great result for anybody. Mr Wilkerson deserves to be punished, but I think we all need to find out whether he truly can or cannot be rehabilitated.”

What on earth is going on here? We have reached a whole new low for women when our farce of a justice system embraces rape culture and white privilege (at least male white privilege) by allowing white men on campus to rape at will with very little consequences. And don’t think other potential rapists aren’t taking note. Do any of these judges have daughters? Wives? Mothers? Why is rape becoming the only crime where the criminal’s well-being is put ahead of the victims?

Stanford rape case protestors [Photo by D. Ross Cameron/AP Images]Americans are outraged when they hear about stories in places like India where women are being frequently gang raped, and not only are the attackers going free, but the women are shamed for the rapes. In Morocco, a judge told a rapist the charges would be dropped as long as he married the victim. So, the girl who is raped is supposed to now spend the rest of her life being raped by someone she hates?

We think the stories are unbelievable but are we not heading in the same direction when we allow privileged white males in college to get away with rape? Is there not an element of victim blaming because the women were intoxicated? It seems these judges are sending a message to women to punish them for behavior they disapprove of by allowing their attackers to go free, or only serve minimal sentences.

This was not the act of a man who was intoxicated and got carried away in a moment of opportunity — not that that is an excuse — but the premeditated, malicious act of a predator. What recourse do women have when the judicial system refuses to punish men who attack them and cause lifelong trauma? But oh well, boys will be boys, right?

[Image via Boulder County Sheriff’s Office]