Brock Turner. Does the name sound familiar? Most news articles refer to him as the “Stanford swimmer” or “olympic hopeful.” He is the man who brutally assaulted a woman outside of a fraternity party in January 2015. Rather than summarize the details of that day or the aftermath, I recommend reading what the victim herself has to say. In her letter to the defendant, she expressed herself both brilliantly and eloquently on a subject and event that is horrific and appalling.
This week Turner received his sentence. He was sentenced to 6 months in prison followed by probation. He was also sentenced to register as a sex offender for life. He was convicted of assault with the intent to commit rape, sexual penetration with a foreign object of an intoxicated person and sexual penetration with a foreign object of an unconscious person. News articles state that he faced up to 14 years in prison but received only 6 months. This is a shockingly light sentence. After the brutality he committed, and his lack of ownership or remorse over his actions, I am utterly shocked by the sentence. The judge defended his sentence by saying that anything longer would have a “severe impact” on Turner. Isn’t that the point? Shouldn’t jail time have a severe impact on the perpetrator of violence? Shouldn’t he be punished for his actions to a degree that would make him hopefully change? What about the severe impact his actions had on the victim? She has suffered a “severe impact” by no choice of her own. He too should face a severe impact as a result of his own choices and actions.
Below I have included a screenshot of the letter Brock Turner’s father wrote in response to his sentence. Dan Turner calls this a “steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action.” There are many actions that can be done in 20 minutes that deserve a steep price.
What about a gunman who goes into a public place and kills dozens of people? That action, too, is committed in 20 minutes but deserves a “steep price”. Dan Turner goes on to say that he does not deserve this sentence because he has no prior criminal history. Well Dan Turner, we do not live in a society that gives everyone one freebie to commit a horrible crime. We cannot let every or any rapist or murderer off the hook for the first rape or the first murder. A perpetrator of violence must be justly punished for his or her actions.
Dan Turner seems to be perpetrating the cycle of privilege and patriarchy. Rather than disciplining his son or raising him to respect women, Dan Turner is more concerned that his son be able to eat a “ribeye steak.” Brock Turner appears to have grown up in privilege (white privilege, male privilege, socio-economic privilege), and unfortunately even today, his father believes that Brock should have all that he wants or do all he wants with no consequences, something that Brock appears to also believe. I can’t help but think that if Brock were black or a woman or impoverished that the judge would not have looked so favorably upon his case. It seems likely that Brock Turner’s position of privilege in society was a major factor in the sentence he received. This is wrong; no matter his race, gender, wealth, or swimming times, Brock Turner is responsible for his actions and should be punished accordingly. It would be a tragedy for someone with so much potential to spend 14 years of his life in prison, but the real tragedy lies in the fact that this would be the result of his choice to commit violence.
I am appalled by the crime Brock Turner committed in January 2015. I am appalled by the light sentence he received. I am appalled by Dan Turner’s response. But I love that the victim is courageously stepping up and speaking out. She refuses to be silenced and even in the midst of great suffering is offering hope for the future. Let us look to do the same.