Katie Holland is the Rotorua Daily Post deputy editor

Editorial: Sex assault letter sends real message

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Brock Turner.
Brock Turner.

It's the 12-page letter that's reverberating around the world.

If you have a social media account you're unlikely to have missed it during the past few days, such as been the reaction.

The harrowing and intensely moving letter was written by "Emily Doe", a 23-year-old sexually assaulted by a then-Stanford University student as she lay unconscious after drinking too much at a party last year.

Last week she stood in a courtroom and read the letter to her assailant Brock Turner, who was sentenced to six months in prison. A sentence that in itself would cause outrage.

But had it not been for the power of the internet making her letter go viral, the outrage would probably have been contained to California.

Instead, it's prompting discussion worldwide around issues of sexual consent, male entitlement and how authority figures need to step up and condemn sexual assault rather than tacitly excusing it, or blaming the victims.

Bay survivor advocate Louise Nicholas has shared how she would like to "knock some sense" into Turner's father, who argued in a letter to the presiding judge that his son should be given probation.

Doe's letter is long and it's not pleasant. But it is articulate and honest and contains a stark message around what is and isn't consent to sexual activity.

"Future reference, if you are confused about whether a girl can consent, see if she can speak an entire sentence. You couldn't even do that. Just one coherent string of words. If she can't do that, then no. Don't touch her, just no. Not maybe, just no," she says.

Doe's courage in allowing the letter, with its intensely personal details, to be made public has been applauded by Mrs Nicholas.

Mrs Nicholas believes it will help the world understand that getting "sloshed" is not an invitation to be sexually assaulted. I hope so.

Parents: if you haven't already, Google Emily Doe or Brock Turner, read the letter and discuss it with your sons and daughters. Don't just assume they know what consent means, or what to do if they see or experience unwanted sexual behaviour.

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