CW: Sexual Assault, Rape, Graphic Content
I read the Stanford rape survivor's address to Brock Turner in court, and it was so moving I couldn't finish it in the first sitting. The second time I sobbed. It's been read on Buzzfeed almost five and a half million times. Ashleigh Banfield devoted her CNN show, Legal View, to the case and read it out loud. A change.org petition has been started and signed by over 900,000 people to remove ruling Judge Aaron Persky from the bench. Joe Biden has penned an open letter to the survivor.
It seems each day we receive a new snippet of information further highlighting the bias that led to the ruling. First, it was that Brock Turner was a swimmer on Stanford's team. I wasn't able to find the notorious article that tags on his swim times at the end, but I did find the one that refers to him as a former "three time All-American high school swimmer and state record-holder in two freestyle events," because that, OBVIOUSLY, is relevant information to the fact that he is a rapist. Couple this with the mugshot that remained unreleased to the public by Stanford and Santa Clara authorities for over a year, compound it with the absurd comment by Turner's father that having to register as a sex offender for "twenty minutes of action" is a "steep price to pay" (SERIOUSLY? WHAT EVEN, DAN TURNER), and the privilege that this rapist is inundated with becomes abundantly clear.
The bias doesn't stop there, however. Turns out, Judge Persky's a Stanford alumnus himself and better yet, a former captain of the Stanford lacrosse team, too. I realize that this alone does not a villain Judge Persky make, but considering that he once valiantly claimed to "focus on the prosecution of sexually violent predators, working to keep the most dangerous sex offenders in custody...," I don't know how else I'm supposed to see this. Despite the jury's findings that Turner was guilty of three felonies out of the five he was charged with (one count of rape of an intoxicated person, one count of rape of an unconscious person, one count of sexual penetration by a foreign object of an intoxicated woman, one count of sexual penetration by a foreign object of an unconscious woman, and one account of assault with the intent to commit rape), despite the survivor's plea to the judge, and despite the district attorney's recommendation for a prison sentence for 6 years, Judge Persky decided to go with the probation officer's suggestion that Turner be committed to six months of county jail--not prison--and three years of probation. Considering that the maximum sentence in this case could have been 14 years of prison, the ruling is astonishingly light. Judge Persky thinks that the media attention has been bad enough for Brock the Rapist, that "a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him" and that he won't be "a danger to others," completely disregarding the fact that Turner's actions themselves have already had a severe impact on his victim.
To the woman who is the survivor in all of this: You are my hero. Your courage, your commitment to raising your voice and being heard in this horrible, horrible act against you, has helped so many. I can't tell you how many times I wish I'd been louder myself. I am so, so sorry about what this worthless piece of shit did to you. Thank you for being the strong woman that you are. Your courage gives us courage, too. We support you.
To be clear about my use of the words "rape" and "rapist" in this post: Brock Turner was declared guilty of sexual assault, but I don't think that qualifies the magnitude of what he did to his victim. The reason it isn't legally considered rape is because he did not insert his penis into her vagina. He did, however, assault her on the ground behind a dumpster, remove her underwear and bra, pull up her dress, grope her breasts, finger her, shove pine needles and debris into her vagina, and hump her unconscious body with an erect penis. But because a penis did not go inside her, it is not legally rape. And I think that's ridiculous. I think if anything goes inside of an orifice, it's considered rape.
The following is the letter than I included with my signature to remove Judge Aaron Persky from the bench.
I am infuriated by Judge Persky's sentence in the Stanford case. To think that a six-month county jail sentence could come anywhere near the appropriate punishment for Brock Turner's three counts of rape is mind-boggling. Is Persky unaware of the long-term effects that rape has on a victim? Of the self-loathing that victims feel, or the COURAGE it took that girl to stand up to her [rapist], Brock Turner, in court and tell him just how much he had wronged her? Or is he ignorant of the psychological trauma rape survivors face, of the possibility that ONE THIRD of survivors will suffer from rape-related posttraumatic stress disorder at some point during their lives (svfreenyc.org)? Survivors of rape are at a high risk for developing substance use disorders, major depression, anxiety disorders, OCD, and eating disorders. But the effects of jail time on Brock Turner's well-being were clearly of higher importance.
The rape that Brock Turner committed cannot be blamed on alcohol consumption. I am not denying the fact that alcohol can impair one's judgement, but the real culprit here [aside, of course, from the rapist] is rape culture. Rape culture can be defined as "an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture" (Marshall University). The Stanford rape case is a picture-perfect representation of rape culture in America. "Rape Culture" is not just a buzzword. Rape Culture is the ugly reality of America and it MUST be uprooted. The fact that Turner's father spoke out, saying, "His [Brock Turner's] life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of his life," is another infuriating example of rape culture. It only takes one second to pull a trigger and become a murderer; should a murderer face lenient charges as well? What about the picture of a smiling, suit-clad Brock Turner that accompanied each article? Where is his mug shot? Why is he given an ounce of humanity after his abominable actions? Brock Turner is a rapist.
Children will grow up to become rapists because of the lack of education and enforcement of rules and laws against rape. Some will be convicted. Most will not. Some won't even realize that they are rapists, but ALL victims of rape will deal with the trauma and health risks that follow. Judge Persky's statement that "A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him [Brock Turner]," is insultingly inconsiderate of the severe impact that Brock Turner's victim has already felt. Judge Persky has let me down. He has let every person who has ever been the victim of rape down. He has told us that we do not matter as much as a white, male star athlete. That our lives and our emotional and mental well-being are not as important as that of a rapist. He has NOT brought forth justice for Brock Turner's victim. He has NOT done his job. He has proven that social status played a role in his ruling. Brock Turner is a rapist. This girl's life will be forever changed by what has happened to her. Six Months is not enough.