Brock Allen Turner, a former Stanford swimmer, was sentenced to six months in county jail for raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster on campus in January of last year. Many have called the punishment too lenient and a “slap on the wrist.”
In March, a jury found Turner guilty on felony charges of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated or unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person and penetration of an unconscious person. The sexual assault took place outside a frat party in 2015, where the victim was unconscious from drinking too much. This case isn’t a complicated “he said/she said” situation, but rather a clear-cut rape. Two witnesses who were bicycling in the area saw Turner thrusting his body on the unresponsive, half-naked girl on the ground behind a dumpster and stopped the assault and Brock ran. The witnesses caught Turner and he was handed over to authorities.
California Penal Code Section 261 includes the following activities as rape:
Where a person is prevented from resisting by any intoxicating
or anesthetic substance, or any controlled substance, and this
condition was known, or reasonably should have been known by the
Where a person is at the time unconscious of the nature of the
act, and this is known to the accused. As used in this paragraph,
“unconscious of the nature of the act” means incapable of resisting
because the victim meets any one of the following conditions:
(A) Was unconscious or asleep.
(B) Was not aware, knowing, perceiving, or cognizant that the act
(C) Was not aware, knowing, perceiving, or cognizant of the
essential characteristics of the act due to the perpetrator’s fraud
Turner, 20-years-old, must register as a sex offender for life and complete three years of probation under the terms of his six-month jail sentence, which could last only three months with good behavior.
An editorial in the Mercury News called the sentence a “slap on the wrist.”
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen slammed the mild punishment in a statement:
“The punishment does not fit the crime. The predatory offender has failed to take responsibility, failed to show remorse and failed to tell the truth. The sentence does not factor in the true seriousness of this sexual assault, or the victim’s ongoing trauma. Campus rape is no different than off-campus rape. Rape is rape. And I will prosecute it as such.”
Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky gave reasons for his light sentence:
- Turner didn’t have a criminal record.
- Turner exhibited genuine feelings of remorse.
- A judge should take into consideration the whole picture of how imprisonment affects a person’s life.
- Both he and his victim were intoxicated.
- Turner claims he plans to teach and educate college students about the dangers of binge drinking culture and sexual promiscuity.
The judge said a longer sentence would have a “severe impact” on Turner and doesn’t think Brock’s “lack of complete acquiescence to the verdict should count against him.”
It is worth noting that Persky received his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, the same school where Turner was a swimmer.
The 23-year-old victim, who had had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit at the time of the rape and has no memory of the attack, called Turner’s punishment “gentle.” During the trial, the victim read a 12-page statement directly to Turner before the ruling, detailing her agony over the past 18 months in graphic detail.
I stood there examining my body beneath the stream of water and decided, I don’t want my body anymore. I was terrified of it, I didn’t know what had been in it, if it had been contaminated, who had touched it. I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else.
On that morning, all that I was told was that I had been found behind a dumpster, potentially penetrated by a stranger, and that I should get retested for HIV because results don’t always show up immediately. But for now, I should go home and get back to my normal life. Imagine stepping back into the world with only that information. They gave me huge hugs, and then I walked out of the hospital into the parking lot wearing the new sweatshirt and sweatpants they provided me, as they had only allowed me to keep my necklace and shoes.
One day, I was at work, scrolling through the news on my phone, and came across an article. In it, I read and learned for the first time about how I was found unconscious, with my hair disheveled, long necklace wrapped around my neck, bra pulled out of my dress, dress pulled off over my shoulders and pulled up above my waist, that I was butt naked all the way down to my boots, legs spread apart, and had been penetrated by a foreign object by someone I did not recognize. This was how I learned what happened to me, sitting at my desk reading the news at work. I learned what happened to me the same time everyone else in the world learned what happened to me. That’s when the pine needles in my hair made sense, they didn’t fall from a tree. He had taken off my underwear, his fingers had been inside of me. I don’t even know this person. I still don’t know this person. When I read about me like this, I said, this can’t be me.
This can’t be me. I could not digest or accept any of this information. I could not imagine my family having to read about this online. I kept reading. In the next paragraph, I read something that I will never forgive; I read that according to him, I liked it. I liked it. Again, I do not have words for these feelings.
The night after it happened, he said he thought I liked it because I rubbed his back. A back rub. Never mentioned me voicing consent, never mentioned us speaking, a back rub.
You can read the victim’s entire statement here.
“You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today,” she said to Turner. “I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt.”
“Even if the sentence is light, hopefully this will wake people up,” the victim said. “I want the judge to know that he ignited a tiny fire. If anything, this is a reason for all of us to speak even louder.”
UPDATE: Turner’s father, Dan, apparently released a counter-statement to his son’s sentence claiming that he does not believe his son should have to serve jail time at all. The elder Turner’s poorly worded defense does not bring much empathy for Brock Turner. The alleged letter by Turner was posted on Twitter by Michele Dauber, the Stanford law professor who helped draft new university procedures for penalizing sexual violence.
— Michele Dauber (@mldauber) June 5, 2016
“His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve,” Turner’s father wrote, making reference to his son’s possibly future as an Olympic swimmer. “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”
The father believes that his son did not hurt the victim at all, but simply ended up in this situation due to intoxication and sexual promiscuity.
“He has no prior criminal history and has never been violent to anyone including his actions on the night of Jan 17th 2015,” Turner wrote. “Brock can do so many positive things as a contributor to society and is totally committed to educating other college students about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.”
Dan blames the case has damaged Brock’s “happy go lucky” attitude and caused him to lose his appetite.
“Now he barely consumes any food and eats only to exist,” Dan Turner wrote. “These verdicts have broken and shattered him and our family in so many ways.”
If everything is as it seems, Brock’s lack of hunger pales in comparison to what the victim has gone through. Here is her letter of what she has had to deal with since the ordeal.
You can read Dan Turner’s entire letter here.