By Ruby Liles
The Brock Turner rape story went viral on social media this summer, causing outrage across the country. What does it mean for future rape cases and where does this case stand within the whole context of rape culture?
"Turner's inability to comprehend his crime makes him a threat to other women in the future..."
Brock Turner, a 20-year-old who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman behind a dumpster at a frat party in March, was released from jail after only three months of his already extremely controversial six-month sentence. Why was this so controversial? Because prosecutors asked that he be sentenced to six years in prison, which is still a considerably light punishment for rape.
So, why is it that that Brock only had to serve four percent of his initial sentence? Brock’s dad, in his public letter regarding his opinion on the matter, said six months, much less six years, is “a steep price to pay for only 20 minutes of action,” referring to the roughly 20 minutes it took Brock to strip this woman of her clothes, her dignity, and privacy, in every sense of the word.
Judge Aaron Persky, who heard Brock’s case, said the six-year sentence would have “greatly affected” Brock’s blossoming swimming career at Stanford, and people in jail are a larger threat to him than he is to the rest of the outside world. Keep in mind that throughout his trial, Brock never apologized for anything more than drinking that night, which makes him a remorseless rapist who received virtually no punishment for his crime. Turner’s inability to comprehend his crime makes him a threat to other women in the future and puts yet another hole in Persky’s reasoning.
Michele Dauber, professor at Stanford and committee chair for Recall Judge Aaron Persky, a petition aimed at removing Persky from the bench, criticized Brock’s dad’s and Judge Persky’s sorry excuses. She said the sentence was infected with bias towards privileged white men, which is not a new phenomenon. Persky said that Brock was so young and had such a lack of criminal history that he let him off with three months.
I wonder, if Brock Turner happened to look like Trayvon Martin, who was even younger and had no criminal history at all, would he have still gotten away with three months? Probably not, since Trayvon committed no crime and was sentenced not to three months, not to six months, not to six years, but to death. He was 17.
Here’s where it stands legally: in the state of California, prison time for sexual assault is mandatory, unless the victim isn’t able to defend her assault allegations, and apparently being “unconscious” during the crime qualifies as being unable to defend oneself. Hypocritical, really, when Brock’s excuse for raping her was that it wasn’t rape at all. He said the victim had rubbed his back when he kissed her, which he tried to justify as consent. However, he later justified his inadequate sentence by saying that the same woman who gave him that “consent” was physically unconscious and incapable of speech throughout the whole ordeal, and therefore couldn’t be used as a witness to her own rape.
This loophole is one that has been under serious scrutiny after the Stanford case, and California is fortunately doing something about it. The state House and Senate have passed a bill that would require a set mandatory jail time for people like Brock who have been getting out of severe punishment merely because their victim was intoxicated.
Brock is just one kid, but it’s important to look at what he represents. As many of us go back to school, many of us also nearing college, he represents the rape culture we will inevitably be surrounded by on campus. When I Google “rape culture,” some of the highest search results pertain to “the myth of rape culture.” Despite statistics that prove rape on campus is common, many people, from journalists to college administrators, continue to write that it’s actually not a high priority issue or that it’s already being handled. If by “handled” they mean college rapists like Brock are going on tours to “speak out against drinking culture and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that,” then we’re definitely heading in the wrong direction.
But the thing is, one doesn’t go to jail for the sexual promiscuity “that goes along with that.” I am sick of hearing about how alcohol is to blame. Alcohol doesn’t ask a girl to kiss him and then shoot her for saying no. Alcohol isn’t what terrifies girls into not wearing what they want and not going anywhere alone. Rape does that, and sexual assault survivors are called survivors for a reason.
Brock represents this: Our society doesn’t know how to handle rape, and what’s easiest is to sugar-coat it all and blame the victim. What’s easiest is to blame drugs and alcohol because we have solutions for that. What's hard is teaching boys to respect girls because in the end, “boys will be boys.”