Last year, Brock Turner was caught raping a woman outside a party behind a dumpster. Two bike riders saw him thrusting against an unconscious, half-naked victim. After being confronted, Turner tried to flee but was quickly apprehended. When police arrived, Turner claimed that the act was consensual. In the defense’s sentencing memo, Turner’s lawyer, Mike Armstrong, reiterated this by saying, “…No one can pinpoint exactly when the victim went from being conscious to being unconscious.” Armstrong continued, “He is fundamentally a good young man from a good family with a record of real accomplishment who made bad choices during his time at Stanford of about 4 months, especially related to alcohol.”
A jury eventually found Turner guilty of 3 counts of sexual assault—assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object—that SHOULD have added up to 14 years in prison. Instead, probation officials along with Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to 6 MONTHS IN A COUNTY JAIL WITH PROBATION, fearing that a longer sentence “would have a severe impact on him.” Outrage ensued and this decision has been rightfully questioned. In fact, there is now a petition for the removal of Judge Persky from the bench, for what people see as a biased and lenient conviction.
UPDATE: "Brock Turner was sentenced to six months in county jail followed by three years of probation. But booking records show he’ll walk out of his cell on September 2—after just three months." [via Huffingtonpost.com]
This ruling came after both the victim and Brock Turner’s father, Dan Turner, delivered statements in court. Here’s an excerpt from the victim’s letter:
“I used to pride myself on my independence, now I am afraid to go on walks in the evening, to attend social events with drinking among friends where I should be comfortable being. I have become a little barnacle always needing to be at someone’s side, to have my boyfriend standing next to me, sleeping beside me, protecting me. It is embarrassing how feeble I feel, how timidly I move through life, always guarded, ready to defend myself, ready to be angry.” You can read it in its entirety here.
From the other side, Brock’s father wrote,
Brock’s friend, Leslie Rasmussen, also came forward with her own opinion of the assault: “I don’t think it’s fair to base the fate of the next 10+ years of his life on the decision of a girl who doesn’t remember anything but the amount she drank to press charges against him. I am not blaming her directly for this, because that isn’t right. But where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn’t always because people are rapists.”
This is a classic, and certainly not an isolated, example of how rape culture stems from and serves victim-blaming, institutionalized discrimination, male privilege, and media manipulation.
Victim-blaming is when someone who’s been harmed/assaulted/victimized is held entirely or partially responsible for what happened to them.
Throughout the trial, the victim’s dignity, and as a result her credibility, were repeatedly questioned because she happened to be drunk when she was raped. We know what you’re thinking—why does that matter? It doesn’t. A lot of people get drunk without being raped. Actually, a lot of people get drunk without raping anybody. Next!
Armstrong asserted that no one can pinpoint when the victim became unconscious, implying that there was an initial consent. Even if that were true, a woman can ALWAYS say no even after she’s said yes. In this case, even if she had said yes—she did not—the fact that she was unresponsive and immobile underneath Brock Turner should have been enough of a reason for him to get the fuck off her. Furthermore, Rasmussen defended her friend with a statement that’s so ridiculous, it should now be considered the paragon of stupidity: “Rape on campuses isn’t always because people are rapists.” Uh, yes it is. Rape ANYWHERE is because those people are rapists. Rasmussen's full letter is here, where she also argues that the rape was just "idiot boys and girls having too much to drink and not being aware of their surroundings and having clouded judgment."
YOU CAN'T BLAME THE WOMAN FOR BEING DRUNK AND THEN EXCUSE THE MAN FOR HAVING TOO MANY.
Many have decried Judge Persky’s decision to cut Brock Turner’s sentence down to 6 months as a shocking example of institutionalized discrimination. TheChange.org petition reads: "Judge Persky failed to see that the fact that Brock Turner is a white male star athlete at a prestigious university does not entitle him to leniency. He also failed to send the message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class, race, gender, or other factors." Several people on Twitter have shared the same thoughts, stressing that if Brock Turner had been non-white or even non-male, the sentence would have been much harsher.
What added even more insult to injury, however, was Dan Turner's appalling display of male privilege and repugnant dismissal of the rape as "20 minutes of action." When you consider the fact that you can literally end a life in a matter of seconds, 20 minutes is a fucking long time to strip someone of his or her "worth, privacy, energy, time, safety, intimacy, confidence, and voice." As if time is indicative of harm. The older Turner went on to say that "Brock can do so many positive things as a contributor to society and is totally committed to educating other college students about the dangers of alcohol consumption." We'd like to believe that a registered rapist will never have this kind of power or opportunity but in a world where rapists can walk away with an offensive 6-month ruling, anything is literally possible.
In cases such as this one, a woman is judged for her past but a man is seen for his potential to do good, to be better.
The media, despite its widespread coverage of this case, is doing more harm than good. When you look at the headlines of the articles regarding this assault, Brock Turner is introduced as, "Ex-Stanford student" or "Ohio-native" or "Potential Olympian." Where are the words that accurately describe who he is now? Rapist. Predator. Abuser. Sexual offender. There needs to be better coverage of these cases so victims of sexual abuse can feel empowered to fight for themselves.
We are hoping that the petition to remove Judge Persky from his Judicial position pulls through and that Brock Turner's victim finally receives justice and peace. You can sign here.
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