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Atlanta, Georgia (CNN)A former All-American swimmer at Stanford says the Brock Turner sexual assault case is a “teachable moment” for parents, especially fathers, to teach their sons to respect women.
Sabir Muhammad, the first African-American to set a US swimming record, told CNN in June it is imperative for men to speak out against rape and “to teach their sons that no means no — and unconscious means call 911 or get medical help.”
“As a parent, it’s important to teach your children the difference between right and wrong,” said Muhammad, a father of four children. “It’s also important to teach your children accountability. What Brock Allen did on that night was wrong. …”
“Brock needs to realize that he was, and is, the problem here,” he added.
Muhammad: I have two teenage sons and also two very young daughters, and this event has made me think deeply about the way I raise my children, especially my sons. I speak to my children about the importance of right and wrong and the respect we must have for our own bodies and those of others.
I also teach my sons that ‘no’ means ‘no,’ and the perils of drugs and alcohol, and how these influences destroy lives.
CNN: If you could talk with Brock, what would you say to him?
Muhammad: I teach my children that if you hurt someone you apologize and ask for forgiveness immediately. It appears to me that Brock only apologized, and a weak one at that, after he was found guilty and given his incredibly light sentence.
Brock needs to realize that he was, and is, the problem here; not drunkenness, not the vagueness of his own memories and certainly not the victim.
I would tell Brock that he got off easy but he still owes a debt. I would encourage him to find positive ways to contribute to society and to work to understand the factors that resulted in him becoming a sexual predator. When Brock finally understands this, I believe he can start to rebuild his life.
He must also understand that the victim may never forgive him — and that is her right to do so.
CNN: His father all but blamed drinking and the swim team culture for what happened, ignoring his son’s actions. Your thoughts about that?
Muhammad: As a parent, it’s important to teach your children the difference to between right and wrong. It’s also important to teach your children accountability. What Brock Allen did on that night was wrong. And unfortunately, everything his family did following that night was also wrong. Hiring private investigators and attempting to change the conversation to cast doubt on the victim and insinuate her culpability was an incredible abuse and, for me, it will be this cowardly act that defines Brock Allen Turner and his family.
CNN: What’s your overall message, as a father and as a man?
Muhammad: For parents and children: Let’s share proper respect and empathy for each other. Let’s hold ourselves accountable for our actions. Let’s not be overly concerned with accomplishments and remember that we are human beings first.
For Stanford alumni, students, staff and faculty: It’s been 18 years since I graduated, and the thing I remember most about Stanford was the incredible empathy the students have for one another. I was a poor black Muslim kid from the South, and I was always treated with respect and generosity by my peers and Stanford faculty. This “Stanford Empathy” I speak about was clearly present when the two Swedish Ph.D. students arrived on the scene and stopped the attack.
As a Stanford alum, I think it’s too easy to become consumed with one’s personal goals, and I believe there are too many students who simply see Stanford as an accolade to be won and added to one’s resume. Stanford is an opportunity to grow, to learn from others and to participate as a part of a community. I call on Stanford students, alum and administrators to make a big deal about this incident — to not hide from it, to use it as a teachable moment — and act as leaders to prevent this from happening again at Stanford and other colleges and universities across the country.
That’s why I’m lending my voice. Rapes on campuses are far too frequent. Racial bias in the American judicial system is far too frequent. And it all needs to stop.