As a female college student, I was horrified hearing about Brock Turner, the Stanford University swimmer who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman in 2016. While Turner was convicted of sexual assault by a unanimous jury, he was only sentenced to six months in jail and three years probation.
The case sparked nationwide outrage. Eric S. Multhaup, Turner’s attorney, recently argued for his conviction to be overturned, since he was engaged in “outercourse” that didn’t include “penile contact.”
This defense has angered many, as sexual assault is defined as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” Witnesses stated Turner was digitally penetrating his victim as she lay unconscious. His victim could in no way have consented to this vile act.
Turner’s father defended his son, begging the judge for leniency and referring to his crime as “20 minutes of action.” Turner himself blamed the culture of college partying and risk-taking for his behavior.
What marks this case as especially unsettling and unnerving is the excuses being used for Turner’s predatory behavior. Grown men, by pardoning his actions, are enforcing rape culture and victim blaming. They’re stripping Turner of any responsibility, heeding the notion that “boys will be boys.”
Persky, the judge for the case, found Turner to be remorseful, free from a history of crime, young and not a threat to others. He further stated that a prison sentence would have “adverse collateral consequences” for Turner.
Turner will be forced to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, but had his sentence reduced to three months for good behavior. Advocates for victims of sexual assault attribute Persky’s leniency to Turner’s status as a white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed swimmer with potential for the Olympics.
This case is damaging in a myriad of ways. Turner’s pardoning is why so many victims of sexual assault and rape find it hard to come forward. It’s proof that rapists won’t be held accountable for their actions. Persky’s sentencing essentially gives rapists the benefit of the doubt instead of the victim.
Turner’s father, when talking about the case, has described it as a devastating blow to Turner’s future. “His life will never be the one that he dreamed about,” he said in a letter arguing for probation.
Turner’s victim addressed him in a letter, describing the attack and her feelings. In one powerful sentence, she said, “I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else.”
It’s frustrating to read about this case, because both Turner’s father and Pesky have more sympathy toward a rapist than the victim. These men are essentially blaming the culture of alcohol consumption for his actions. Alcohol doesn’t strip anyone from being accountable for their actions, and it absolutely doesn’t excuse sexual predators.
2018 has been the year of the #MeToo movement, and yet Brock Turner’s case is another example of how rape culture is alive and well. Until judges start convicting and jailing sexual predators, the message that people can get away with rape will continue to pervade society.
Hannah Zeigler is a junior media arts and anthropology double major. Contact Hannah at firstname.lastname@example.org.