Our Viewpoint: Brock Turner: Student, Swimmer, Rapist

On Jan. 18, 2015, Brock Turner was found raping a woman behind a dumpster outside a Stanford University fraternity house. Many articles listed Turner as “former student” or “former Stanford swimmer,” but to be honest, he doesn’t deserve recognition for his ability to swim or get into Stanford. He doesn’t deserve to be recognized as anything other than what he is: a rapist.

Turner plead not guilty to attempted rape, rape of an intoxicated person, rape of an unconscious person, sexual penetration of an intoxicated woman and sexual penetration of an unconscious woman. All of these counts are felonies. Turner was released on bail.

Eventually, two of the charges were dropped, including rape of an intoxicated person and rape of an unconscious person.

This past March, Turner was found guilty on the remaining charges, and in June, Judge Aaron Persky sentenced him to six months in prison.

Let’s list a few things that take longer than six months to put this in perspective: pregnancy, a season of “Saturday Night Live,” a school year, and getting over the trauma of someone raping you.

A letter the victim read in the courtroom stated, “I tried to push it out of my mind, but it was so heavy I didn’t talk, I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t interact with anyone. After work, I would drive to a secluded place to scream. I didn’t talk, I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t interact with anyone, and I became isolated from the ones I loved most.”

Meanwhile, Turner’s father, Dan Turner, also wrote a letter describing the “devastating impact” his son is facing.

In the letter, his father writes, “His every waking minute is consumed with worry, anxiety, fear and depression. You can see this in his face, the way he walks, his weakened voice, his lack of appetite…these verdicts have broken and shattered him and our family in so many ways. His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”

I understand unconditional love. I understand that Dan Turner deeply loves his son and has clearly sacrificed a lot in order to give Brock the life he’s always dreamed of. I get it. What I don’t understand is the clear denial of the trauma and devastation that the girl Brock raped will face for the rest of her life. In Dan Turner’s letter, he seems to act as though Brock made a mild mistake. Except, Brock committed felonies. Brock ruined two lives that night. He ruined his own and he ruined the girl’s.

During the trial, one of Turner’s friends, Leslie Rasmussen, wrote a letter in defense of Turner, which has received much backlash.

She wrote, “I don’t think it’s fair to base the fate of the next 10+ years of his life on the decision of a girl who doesn’t remember anything but the amount she drank to press charges against him. I am not blaming her directly for this, because that isn’t right. But where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn’t always because people are rapists.”

While our society has definitely focused in the last 10 years on being politically correct, Rasmussen is wrong in so many ways.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a rapist is someone who “forces another person to have sexual intercourse with the offender against their will.” Nowhere in that definition does it include, “boys who sometimes make mistakes” or “people who get too drunk.” Once you rape someone, you are a rapist. No matter how much alcohol you’ve had, no matter what drugs you’ve taken, you are a rapist.

The worst part of the situation is not the letter Dan Turner wrote, or the letter Rasmussen wrote, it’s the fact that Turner was released from jail after only serving three months. He was released for “good behavior.”

A man who took the innocence and freedom of a young girl was released for good behavior. The irony of that statement will never sit right with me. Yes, Turner will have to live with the entire nation knowing he is a rapist for the rest of his life, but that’s absolutely nothing compared to what the girl must have felt when she was removing pine needles from her hair in the hospital the next day after learning she was raped behind a dumpster. It will never compare to the feelings she must feel each morning when she wakes up. This situation will live with both of them forever, but it will never affect him as much as it will affect her.

Turner has since moved back to his hometown of Dayton, Ohio to live with his family. He is now registered as a Tier III sex offender, which means he will have to register every 90 days for the rest of his life in addition to serving three years of probation. Individuals have protested his early release and have stood outside his house with signs that read, “If I rape Brock, will I only do three months?,” as well as brandishing weapons.

Although none of us can change the outcome of this situation, the only thing we truly can do is advocate for the rape victims who are unable to advocate for themselves. Our society is often so quick to blame the victims of sexual assault, when we should be focusing on how we can help them. Girls, boys, men and women around the country and around the world need our support. We need to stand together to make sure rape victims are heard, regardless of how much alcohol they’ve had or what they were wearing.

No one deserves to be subjected to a life of fear just because they may have had too much to drink. No one.

California lawmakers have already begun the conversation by unanimously voting to pass a law that would mandate a three year jail sentence to anyone convicted of rape using force. Many feel this law will be helpful in serving justice to future rape victims, but the law was implemented too late to give Brock Turner what he deserved.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, seek assistance or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656–4673.

Dakota Palmer is the voices editor for The Spectator and EdinboroNow.

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