Dear Mrs. Turner, I’d Love to Hear Your Voice

Dear Carleen Turner,

I’ve seen a photo of you walking with your son in his court appearance suit. I know you exist. Every child has a mother and a father, and it appears that you are involved in his life. I can only guess that you love your son just as I love my daughter and two sons. I can only guess that your heart is torn, conflicted, confused, angry, sad, afraid. I’m hoping you are like me – that you can love your child and want to scream at them with a ferocity that scares the shit out of them.

But I’d love to hear you, to read your words. Woman to woman. Mother to mother. Mother of a son to mother of a son.

I’ve read several posts by fathers about what they are telling their sons. That’s great.

But you and I are not fathers. We are mothers. We experience life differently as women, and here in what your husband called “20 minutes of action” is where you and I realize, I hope, that as mothers we also are women at risk of being seen as something, not even someone, to be possessed, penetrated, conquered, and disposed of.

What are you thinking? I want to know because I want to believe that as mothers we also share the ability to love our children, question our parenting, and continue to have a positive impact on our kids even when they make mistakes, even when they commit heinous, criminal acts.

I want to hear your voice because honestly I’m scared. You and I live similar lives in lovely communities that tell our children (and now I see that you have a daughter and two sons as well, at least from the photo I am assuming they are your children) they can become successful in whatever they set their eyes towards. Your son was close to that future, but did you know something was off? My sons are younger than yours but they hear the same messages. I want to hear your voice because maybe you have a word of advice? A warning? A regret?

Your silence is understandable. I’d be scared out of my mind and want to go into hiding, but he’s still your son. And honestly, your husband (I presume you are married) said some crazy stuff. Leave it to me to want you, the mother, wife, and woman, to clean up the mess left by two of the men in your life, but isn’t that what we find ourselves doing? Cleaning up the messes? Explaining the messes? Making the shit storm someone else left into a teachable moment?

Am I falling into gendered stereotypes? Yes. No. I don’t want to diminish the severity of what your son did. He sexually assaulted an unconscious woman. You and I are mothers but before we are mothers we are women. I want to hear your voice because you are walking in this space of tension that I am afraid of but shouldn’t be so naive as to think I am immune because of my zip code.

When horrible, criminal acts are committed against non-white people, we are almost required to forgive. Forgiveness by the survivors are commended. I want to hear from you in hopes you can flip the script and ask for forgiveness, to ask for what neither your son or husband can acknowledge is necessary.

Dear Carleen Turner, I’d love to hear you out before I write you off.

7 Comments

  1. eatingasapathtoyoga June 8, 2016

    Why would we write her off? I wouldn’t write her off. I will pray for her. What exactly would you want her to say?

    Reply
    • Kathy Khang June 8, 2016

      Not “we” because I am not speaking for anyone else here. I am speaking for me. I didn’t say I won’t pray for her. Her silence in a time when public statements have helped keep her son from serving any time in a prison (he will be in county lock-up for as little as three months based on his sentence) is deafening. I wrote the questions I have for her as well as understanding if she just wants to go into hiding. But I know I am not the only woman, not the only human, who would like to hear what she has to say. She has a unique if not unenviable position and platform to speak out against the very crime her son committed and the crude comments her husband made, and she has the access to hire a public relations firm to help manage this if need be.

      Reply
      • eatingasapathtoyoga June 8, 2016

        I just wouldn’t write her off. If I were her, I don’t think I’d be able to say anything.

        Reply
  2. Jen Eisenberg June 8, 2016

    Kathy,
    Thank you for writing this.
    What scares me, is our complete and utter resistance to learning and getting better about this. In this article (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2016/06/03/more-than-half-of-college-athletes-surveyed-at-one-university-admit-coercing-a-partner-into-sex/) the author says they tried to do research at 6 universities, but only one would permit it.

    -Jen

    Reply
    • Kathy Khang June 8, 2016

      There are so many things going on with this story…

      Universities don’t want research done that can in any way implicate the institution. There is even more at stake when the alleged perpetrators are involved with athletics.

      Churches fail women and men miserably with purity culture crap, a lack of theologically and scientifically sound teaching on sex and sexuality, and honest talk about sex, drinking, etc.

      Communities fail children when we protect them at the risk of eliminating consequences.

      And honestly I just want to believe that young man has someone who loves him who has their head screwed on straight.

      Reply
  3. Angela June 8, 2016

    I am also curious as to whether there were clues. The picture the dad paints is that what his son did isn’t who he was. But I’d like to think that even if drunk beyond reason, a good person wouldn’t rape a woman.

    Reply
    • Stephanie Vaughan June 9, 2016

      I suspect there were some red flags for the right kind of thoughtful person who had the right kind of familiarity. But they may not have been noticed by anyone. Talking about people like they are objects is routinely blown off as funny in our culture. Talking about drunkenness as a coping mechanism is also “funny.” Stimulation addictions are soaring. A lack of respect for consent is evident in young children in non-sexual situations, and when these are seen as normal and not needing correction and education, then someone with the potential to rape blends in with our rape culture.

      Reply

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