It wasn’t twenty minutes.
You said your son is being punished for “twenty minutes of action.” I can barely begin to fathom how you can morally rationalize uttering that phrase. There is a litany of grievances with your callous words, and I’m going to start with the first two. Twenty minutes.
Twenty minutes. It was twenty minutes of torture for your son’s victim. Twenty minutes of agony. Twenty minutes of penetration from pine needles he picked from the ground. From the ground. It was hours. Three or four, probably. Three or four hours spent naked in a room full of strangers. Strangers pulling those pine needles from inside of her.
It was the days she spent lying awake in bed because closing her eyes was physically impossible. It was the weeks she couldn’t bear to tell her parents where your son touched her. It was the months she spent in court, her character, her life torn apart.
It is every day, every minute, every second. Because that’s what happens. That’s what “twenty minutes of action” will do.
For my friend, Lauren*, “twenty minutes of action” happened in a dorm room freshman year of college. It was twenty minutes. Twenty minutes of his hand pressed against her mouth so the walls couldn’t hear her screams. Twenty minutes of her knees pried open as he forced himself inside her. It was the fifteen-minute drive to the emergency room. The two hours spent in the waiting room, three for the exam. It was the fifteen-minute drive back as the sun rose, exposing the bruises on her inner thighs.
It’s the four years it’s been since she took those pills and tried to kill herself.
And for me, “twenty minutes of action” happened in the high school parking lot when I was sixteen years old. It was twenty minutes. Five minutes of begging for him to stop. Five minutes of screaming. Five minutes of sheer agony. And five minutes of silent sobbing. It was the ten minutes it took to wipe the blood from my legs. It was the days I stopped going to school. It was the weeks I stopped getting out of bed. It was the hours of therapy I’ve had this month alone.
It’s the eight years it’s taken me to talk about it.
You don’t get to be our clock, Mr. Turner.
Your son will soon find his own interpretation of “twenty minutes of action.” Twenty minutes to shower with the rest of the inmates. Twenty minutes to explain to the hiring manager the reason behind that sex offender status. Twenty minutes for his daughter to read an old article. Twenty minutes to learn her dad is a monster.
And, make no mistake, Mr. Turner. We get our twenty minutes, too. Because as hard as he may have tried, your son doesn’t get to take everything from us. We get our first twenty minutes with our boyfriends without thinking about those pine needles. Twenty minutes of sleep with the lights off. Twenty minutes of life. Life without your son. Life without those twenty minutes of “action.”
Because it wasn’t twenty minutes. It’s the rest of our lives.