When 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.