Mr. Turner’s treatment during the case, and his light sentence, quickly became a symbol for many of elite, white male privilege. Judge Persky, a Stanford alumnus, was criticized as seeing Mr. Turner as entitled to future professional achievements. In contrast, Ms. Miller, who had not attended Stanford, had her own achievements dismissed and her history attacked, her “lost potential” not highlighted in the courtroom.
In her memoir, Ms. Miller writes about how growing up Asian-American had made her feel “used to being unseen, to never being fully known. It did not feel possible that I could be the protagonist.” Asian-American women intersect with racism and sexism in ways that are shared by women of other races and also unique to us. It’s impossible to acknowledge the dehumanization of and violence against Asian women — including hypersexualization, exoticization and fetishization — without connecting it to a long history of American colonialism, imperialism and militarization in Asian countries. Sexual and gender-based violence occurs across racial and ethnic lines, as well as commonly within our own ethnic communities.
A 2015 study by the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence found that between 21 percent and 55 percent of Asian-American women experience physical or sexual violence from intimate partners, with rates varying based on ethnicity. We’ve also been found to report rape and other forms of sexual violence less frequently than women of other races. A lack of financial resources as well as trauma, immigration status, risk of alienation from families and communities, and mistrust of the criminal justice system are only some of the reasons one might choose not to report an assault or publicly accuse an assailant.
But contrary to stereotypes of Asian-Americans as silent or submissive, we continue to speak out against sexual violence, from Ms. Miller, Amanda Nguyen, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Emma Sulkowicz to high-profile figures like Connie Chung and many other survivors, in the United States and abroad, who lack a public platform.
The legal system, and institutions such as Ivy League universities, have historically been invested in protecting wealth, white supremacy and patriarchy. Women, both cis- and transgender, are disproportionately affected by sexual violence, and while a vast majority of rapes in the United States are reported by white women, women of color, especially black and Native American women, are more likely to be assaulted. Three out of four sexual assaults are not reported to law enforcement, and although incarceration is not synonymous with justice, accountability or rehabilitation, only five out of 1,000 perpetrators receive prison time.