TW: Abuse (sexual)

On the morning of Friday 2nd September, Brock Turner walked out of Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose. He has only served three months of his six-month sentence.

Brock Turner is not a former Stanford ‘athlete’. Brock Turner is not a talented swimming ‘champion.’ Brock Turner is not a ‘sensitive kid’ who made a ‘mistake.’ Brock Turner is a sexual predator and he should be painted as what he is.

During the night of the incident, Turner’s alcohol limit was 0.17, more than twice the US legal limit of 0.08. The victim’s blood-alcohol was three times the legal limit. She was unconscious when Turner was found on top of her by two Swedish graduate students, Peter Lars Jonsson and Carl-Fredrik Arndt. When she finally became conscious more than 3 hours after the attack, she found that she had no memory it. However, Turner claims he was fully able to walk and talk at the time and acknowledges that although the victim was ‘very drunk,’ their encounter was ‘consensual.’

Brock Turner is a sexual predator, and he should be painted as what he is

What ‘consensual’ aspect is Turner talking about? The fact that the victim gave him a back rub? The fact that they danced and kissed? The fact that she said yes to him for only fingering her? Did he also take that as a yes to exposing her other body parts, to penetrating her with pine cones and other debris, to groping her breasts? Did he take that as a yes to defile her unconscious body? Did he also take that as a yes to sexually assault her as she lay unresponsive?

Moreover, he was able to walk and talk – how could he not realise that the girl underneath him was not responding, was not giving any indication that she was enjoying his efforts, was not moving like he was? How can he say that because he was drunk he was not entirely accountable for his actions?

To critics who say that this incident is not exactly black-and-white because of the alcohol involved: alcohol was not the reason she was put in this position. Yes, she drank beyond her limit. Yes she ‘let her guard down,’ but as she herself so succinctly put in her testimony, ‘alcohol was not the one who stripped me, fingered me, had my head dragging against the ground, with me almost fully naked.’ Brock Turner was the one who did all this, behind a dumpster at 1 in the morning.

Turner was convicted of three felony charges; assault with an intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman; sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object; sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object. The maximum sentence he would have faced is 14 years in prison. Prosecutors asked the judge to sentence him to 6 years in California prison, a much reduced sentence. Instead, he got 6 months confinement in a county jail, followed by 3 years of probation. And now he is out, having served only half of that. Justice has been served, apparently.

3 months simply feel like a light slap on the wrist, telling him not to be a naughty boy again

Aaron Pesky, the judge who served on his case, thought that a longer sentence would ‘have a severe impact on him [Turner]…I think he will not be a danger to others.’ Turner’s father also agreed in his letter to the judge, stating that ‘incarceration is not the appropriate punishment for Brock,’ and that a maximum sentence would be a ‘steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action.’

These are the same 20 minutes of action which subjected the victim to humiliation and scrutiny, and have possibly ruined the next 10 to 20 years, maybe her entire life. She may suffer from deep psychological and mental afflictions, such as PTSD and depression. She may have a distrust of people and find it hard to form relationships. She will have to live with this trauma for the rest of her life.

These 20 minutes have also ruined Turner’s own life. Not only will he have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, he will also have to report to a probation officer for 3 years and register every 3 months at the sheriff’s office in person to confirm he is still in his parents’ home. He is also banned from schools, parks and any other places where children are present. He might not have suffered a life sentence, but his life and career have still suffered, and the only person he has to blame is himself.

Yes, this was Turner’s first offence, and all the great things he was destined for are now out of his reach because of this conviction. Yet these 3 months simply feel like a light slap on the wrist, telling him not to be a naughty boy again. Frankly, the length of this punishment sends out one clear message: if you are privileged enough, you will experience leniency towards your crime. Even if your crime is attempted rape of a drunk, unconscious woman.

This also creates a stigma around the report of rape – in the US, only 344 out of every 1000 rapes are reported to the police. Out of these 344, only 63 lead to arrest and out of these 63, only 13 get referred to prosecutors. It is possible that this case could contribute to a further reduction in those numbers. Victims may develop a fear that even if they do take their case to the police, the perpetrator will not receive the punishment they deserve, if any. This in turn will lead to a larger amount of people walking away free, or with equally reduced sentences like Turners’.

Someone’s background or wealth should not let them escape the sentence they deserve

It is time to start treating rape and sexual assault for what they are – heinous, power-play crimes that take away the humanity and identity of the victim. Around 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales every year, which is estimated to be 11 rapes per hour. These are alarming statistics and show that there is still a lot to be done in the prevention of such a crime.

Our society can do so much more to educate people about consensual and safe sexual activity. For example, increased sex education in high schools and teaching young people about the changes their bodies go through. Introduce more workshops on university campuses that teach the importance of consensual and safe sex. Invest in more help contacts and services for rapists.

One thing does need to be explicit – rape does not happen because of alcohol. Rape does not happen because of clothes. Rape does not happen because someone was ‘asking for it.’ Rape happens because of rapists. Someone’s background or wealth should not let them escape the sentence they deserve.

Correction: 18, September 2016, A correction was made to reflect the fact that Brock Turner was charged with sexual assault and not rape.

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