Brock Turner’s crime

“Do not talk about the sad way your life was upturned because alcohol made you do bad things. Figure out how to take responsibility for your own conduct.”

stanford-rape-case-brock-turner--400x300When something sucky happens, it’s natural to want to find some semblance of a silver lining. Back in January 2015, Brock Turner, a Stanford University student and All-American swimmer, sexually assaulted a young, unconscious woman behind a trash dumpster. And HE portrays HIMSELF as the victim.

“I’ve been shattered by the party culture and risk taking behavior that I briefly experienced in my four months at school,” writes the former college undergrad. “I’ve lost my chance to swim in the Olympics.”

“Turner blames the sexual assault he committed on a campus culture of excessive alcohol consumption, peer pressure, and ‘sexual promiscuity.'”

Ah, yes, Brock Turner was not schooled in knowing that his newly-found “sexual promiscuity” does not, in any way, equate to sexual assault. Yet he got a judge to feel bad for his sorry self, who gave him a mere six months in the county jail, which is functionally three months, rather than the six years in prison the prosecutors requested, or the 14-year maximum for the three charges for which he was convicted.

People are outraged, naturally, because Brock’s father, Dan sighed: “That punishment was a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action.” He’s referring to his precious son, of course, NOT THE VICTIM OF THE CRIME. “He will never be his happy-go-lucky self.” Boo frickin’ hoo.

Was the judge’s extremely lenient sentence a function of gross sexism, racism, and/or classism? Any or all, though that classic affluenza defense, which got a light sentence for that drunk kid in Texas who killed four people, must be considered.

In Turner’s case, “further scrutiny on the judge’s remarks at sentencing appear to suggest he concluded the defendant had ‘less moral culpability’ because he was drunk, and that a light sentence would be an ‘antidote’ to the anxiety he had suffered from intense media attention on the case.” Brock Turner’s anxiety.

But I’m convinced there’s an additional factor. The judge, Aaron Persky, was captain of the lacrosse team. At Stanford. I think it’s the alumni jock thing, protecting the tribe, that came into play. His decision has led to a drive to recall the judge, which they can do in California, and I’d support that.

Now, obviously, there IS a rape culture in this society, in the military, on college campuses, and elsewhere. And I think this travesty of a sentence does nothing to stop it.

The parody site The Onion ran a piece College Basketball Star Heroically Overcomes Tragic Rape He Committed back in February 2011. It’d be funny if it weren’t so true.

Still, I might have let this story go, or at least not write about it. But there was a blogger in the Times Union, my local newspaper, who wrote a post which I, and several others, believe was classic blaming the victim. It was so incendiary that it got lots of hits for the TU website, and will be featured in today’s dead tree version. Fortunately, another blogger responded with more patience than I could have mustered.

So what IS the upside of this whole ordeal? The survivor’s statement, where she was able to control the public narrative without giving up her privacy, able to say the things that others in her situation could not.

She writes, in part: “I have done enough explaining. You do not get to shrug your shoulders and be confused anymore. You do not get to pretend that there were no red flags. You do not get to not know why you ran. You have been convicted of violating me with malicious intent, and all you can admit to is consuming alcohol. Do not talk about the sad way your life was upturned because alcohol made you do bad things. Figure out how to take responsibility for your own conduct.”

Vice-President Joe Biden wrote of the survivor of Brock Turner’s attack: “I do not know your name—but I see your unconquerable spirit.” Both she and the Veep have noted the decency of the two young men who came to her aid.

I also appreciated To Brock Turner’s Father, From Another Father. And other women, outraged by this decision, were likewise emboldened, such as this one.

Remember, consent is like tea. OK, it’s an overly simplistic concept, but it makes a useful point.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

3 thoughts on “Brock Turner’s crime”

  1. “I’ve been shattered by the party culture and risk taking behavior that I briefly experienced in my four months at school,” sounds very much to me like he has been either well briefed by his legal team or his councillor.

  2. Oh, and Brock lied:
    1) Turner lied about never partying and taking drugs before enrolling at Stanford, prosecutors said.

    In a letter submitted to Persky prior to sentencing, Turner said he came from a small town in Ohio and never experienced partying that involved alcohol. But when he started attending Stanford, Turner wrote, he began drinking to relieve the stress of school and competitive swimming. He blamed a “party culture and risk-taking behavior” for his actions.

    But prosecutors said they found text messages and photographs that show Turner lied and has a history of partying.

    Investigators found photographs of Turner smoking from a pipe and holding a bong. A photo of a bong was found as well as a video showing Turner smoking from a bong and drinking from a bottle of liquor.

    “Furthermore, there are many text messages that are indicative of drug use, both during the defendant’s time at Stanford and during his time in Ohio when he was still in high school.”

    In a message sent to a friend in 2014, Turner asked: “Do you think I could buy some wax so we could do some dabs?” Dabs is a reference to smoking a highly potent form of cannabis, known as honey oil.

    Turner also talked about using acid while in high school and at Stanford. He bragged about taking LSD and MDMA together, an act referred to as “candyflippin,” according to prosecutors.

    2) Turner was arrested before the sexual assault in an unrelated incident.

    According to prosecutors, Turner and members of his swim team were stopped by a deputy after they were spotting drinking beer on campus and then tried to run away. He was wearing a bright orange tuxedo and smelled of alcohol. Turner wasn’t 21 years old and had a fake driver’s license, according to prosecutors.

    “He admitted trying to hide the beer and knew he was not supposed to have it because he was not 21 years old. He stated that when he saw Deputy Shaw approach, he made the decision to run. While running, he heard the verbal commands to stop, but continued evading. He said it was a split-second decision and he regretted it.”

    3) Detectives searched Turner’s cellphone after he was arrested.

    Turner was arrested Jan. 18, 2015, in the assault, and later that morning, detectives found a text message in a “Group Me” application on his cellphone. The message said: “Who’s [breasts] are those?” Detectives sent his phone to a crime lab to try to retrieve the message, any attached photos, but couldn’t because it could be deleted by a third party, according to prosecutors.

    4) Turner “creeped” out another woman at a party the weekend before the assault.

    Two women, who attended a fraternity party on June 25, 2015, told a detective that Turner followed them onto a table where they were dancing, according to court documents. He was flirtatious with one of the women, put his hat on her, and started dancing behind her. He then turned her around to face him, court documents said.

    Turner also became “touchy” and put his hands on the woman’s stomach, waist and upper thighs. After becoming increasingly uncomfortable, the woman got off the table.

    She said she was “creeped out” by Turner “because of his persistence,” according to prosecutors and the sheriff’s report.

    5) Turner tried to kiss and grope the victim’s sister before the sexual assault.

    According to prosecutors, Turner tried to pursue the victim’s sister “without any sort of invitation or interest” before the assault.

    “It was abundantly clear from Jane Doe 2’s testimony that she was completely caught off guard by his multiple attempts to kiss her that night. She even had to get away from him after he grabbed her waist, and she alerted her friend, Colleen, to his behavior,” according to the prosecution’s sentencing memorandum.

    The sister and her friend later identified Turner from a photographic lineup and described him the “aggressive guy at the party.”

    In the sheriff’s report, Jane Doe 2 said she, her sister and friends had been in the outside patio area of the fraternity house where they met three guys. One of the guys was more aggressive, she said, and came up to her and one point and “started making out on her cheek” before going for her lips. She laughed in shock and the guy left.

    A short time later, while she was talking to a friend, the “aggressive guy” came back and tried to make out with her again. He grabbed her from in front, at her lower waist, and kissed her on the lips, the report said. She said she had to leave and wiggled out from his hold.

    In her impact statement, Jane Doe 2 addressed her encounter with Turner before her sister’s assault: “In my head, I still have an image of the assailant right before he tried to kiss me earlier in the evening; the face of the man who assaulted my sister, is burned into my memory.”

    According to prosecutors, Turner preyed on the victims.

    “Even though he was twice rejected by Jane Doe 2, he felt it was acceptable to pursue her sister, Jane Doe 1, later that night when she was alone and inebriated. He purposefully took her to an isolated area, away from all the party goers, to an area that was dimly lit, and assaulted her on the ground behind a dumpster. He deliberately took advantage of the fact that she was so intoxicated that she could not form a sentence, let alone keep her eyes open or stand. This behavior is not typical assaultive behavior that you find on campus, but it is more akin to a predator who is searching for prey. The prey in the case was a young woman who drank too much and was unable to protect herself.”

    6) Sister struggles with guilt over her sibling’s sexual assault.

    In a victim impact statement, the victim’s younger sister, referred to as Jane Doe 2 in court documents, said she had gone home that weekend to spend time with her sister, never imagining that she would be picking her up from a hospital. She said she had to learn the graphic details of her sister’s assault through a police report “that went publicly viral before anyone told us.”

    “That night, she came with me to have fun with me and my friends, with no interest in even meeting anyone, let alone hooking up with anyone outside. She had even called me right before he found her, standing and slurring, alone and vulnerable. Today, I am still sick thinking about it. Sick to my stomach every time that I am reminded of the incident. I am still sad that I was not there to protect her. We have both been devastated, we have been speechless, and we have cried until our bodies have run dry.”

    Jane Doe 2 wrote that as a result of what happened, she fell behind in school, suffered panic attacks from anxiety, barely slept and “stayed up at night obsessively turning the events of the night over in my head; delusional that it was my fault for leaving her alone for a stranger to prey upon.”

    In a message to Turner, she said the damage he inflicted is irreversible and that in the last year and a half, she had experienced some of the lowest points of her life.“I have felt more sadness, guilt and anger than I have ever felt. But I would go through what I’ve suffered a million times over if it meant that I could take away what you did to my sister. I can’t undo your mistakes and I can’t mend the part of her that you took away, even though she’s dedicated her life to mending me when I need her.”

    As she finished her statement, she told Turner she hoped he would take accountability for what he’d done.

    “The only sorrow I feel for you is that you never got to know my sister before you assaulted her. She’s the most wonderful person in the world.”

    7) The victim’s boyfriend’s says she “habitually hides in our apartment bathroom and locks the door” due to the assault.

    The victim’s live-in boyfriend said he has seen the impact on her first-hand — how she has become “deeply upset and abrasive” whenever the assault is mentioned, how she is fearful of sleeping alone and how she “habitually hides in our apartment bathroom and locks the door.” He said he’s watched his girlfriend lock herself in the bathroom for hours at a time and can hear her crying through the door when he is nearby.

    He describes in a letter to Persky the impact of Turner’s crimes on his girlfriend, her father, her mother, her surrogate grandmother, her little sister and himself.

    His girlfriend’s life and career were disrupted by the sexual assault and the legal activities afterward, he said. Before the incident, she held a full-time job. Now, she has yet to return to her job full time, he said.

    But while he detailed the aftermath of the attack, he also stressed his girlfriend’s strength throughout the trial.

    “She has shown a boldness in her everyday interactions, as a strong leader for women and victims, that drives her to show confidence, pride and nobility over weakness or pain,” he wrote.

    “[Jane Doe 1] has responded with impressive strength given the circumstances, and with the defiance of a woman who respects her body. Please do not confuse that strength with the deep, negative and permanent impact that comes with a man publicly sexually assaulting a woman while unconscious and the year-long, media-ridden trial that has followed.”

    8) A Stanford law professor urged the judge to sentence Turner to at least two to three years

    In a letter to Persky, Stanford law professor Michele Dauber detailed her personal relationship with the victim, who has been a close friend of the professor’s daughter since middle school. Dauber, who has since launched a campaign to remove Persky from the bench, described the victim as a “lovely, warm, talented, funny girl” who came from a “close, loving, involved family.”

    Dauber had urged Persky to sentence Turner in accordance with the statutory guidelines, “with minimum sentences of two to three years of incarceration for the crimes for which Turner was convicted.”

    She noted that Turner took advantage of the victim’s extreme intoxication, isolation from her sister and friend and her defenselessness after she lost consciousness. Dauber said probation or a short stay in county jail would not reflect the severity of the assault. She also addressed Turner’s background.

    “As an elite college athlete, Turner is someone who has benefited from many advantages in his life. He has a loving and supportive family; it is of course upsetting to see the pain that he has caused them by committing this crime. But these are not advantages that justify leniency,” Dauber wrote. “Turner had every advantage in life and he squandered it, which only adds insult to society’s injury and the injury of his victim. A grant of probation will likely serve to reinforce the message that the ordinary rules do not apply.

    “If the court wishes to deter Mr. Turner from future sex crimes, it may well be that the best way to do so is to adhere to the statutory sentencing guidelines.”
    9) “He should have known better.” More than 250 students signed a letter submitted to Persky before Turner’s sentencing, asking that he be held accountable for his actions.

    In a letter to Persky, founding members of the Stanford Assn. of Students for Sexual Assault Prevention pleaded that Turner receive a sentence of no less than two years for the sexual assault, saying that a short sentence or probation would be inappropriate.

    “In line with our fellow students, we see no reason to provide a sentence less than what the law provides, and we encourage you to follow these guidelines. He does not deserve an exception and we hope you will not make one for him,” the group said.

    A light sentence, the group said, would cause victims to lose trust in the legal system, and send the wrong message, leaving widespread impacts on college campuses everywhere.

    “As a privileged member of an institute of higher education, he should have known better,” they said.

    According to the group, Turner received extensive education on sexual violence as he was required to complete an online training program on consent, sexual abuse and alcohol use before arriving on campus. He also listened to hours of speeches on “the importance of acquiring consent and not engaging in sexual activities when alcohol is involved or the other person is unconscious and unable to give consent.”

    “The multitude of training shows that Mr. Turner was surely aware of the gravity of his wrongdoings, and yet he still chose to commit a horrendous crime,” the group said.

    The group’s letter ended with a final plea for Persky to restore “a climate of trust and safety” on campus.

    “His actions have resulted in serious consequences affecting the entirety of Stanford’s campus. Standing in support of survivors, students’ well-being, and the innocent woman victimized by Mr. Turner’s actions, we ask that you affirm the dignity of survivors and reinstate a climate of trust and safety by providing an adequate punishment that meets the severity of Mr. Turner’s actions. We must ensure that violent crimes will not be tolerated.”

    For breaking news in California, follow VeronicaRochaLA on Twitter.

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