Last Friday, Brock Turner, 20, a Stanford University student and champion swimmer, was found guilty of publicly raping an unconscious woman. The woman was then a college graduate living at home with her parents, who had a serious boyfriend, and attended a fraternity party with her younger sister when she was visiting for the weekend. The woman, who hasn't been named, now 23, released a letter, which she read aloud to Turner, to the public after the judge sentenced Turner to six months in a county jail and probation. Under those charges, his maximum sentence was 14 years in state prison.
According to New York magazine, "a jury found Turner guilty of three sexual-assault charges (including assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated person; sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object; and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object), but although he faced up to 14 years in state prison, Judge Aaron Persky ruled Turner should receive a relatively light sentence" because of the severe impact of prison. Many articles, including those from accredited newspapers, have discussed how Turner's Stanford University scholarship and swimming career have been jeopardized.
Turner's father wrote a letter to the judge before his son was sentenced, and it just recently came to light. In it, Turner's father doesn't acknowledge that his son committed a crime (he instead refers to the assault as "events" or "actions"), but spends a solid chunk of space devoted to describing his son's wonderful personality:
"Brock has an inner strength and fortitude that is beyond anything I have ever seen. This was no doubt honed over many years of competitive swimming and has been a major reason for his ability to cope over the last 15 months."
He then goes on to explain how he was often the only chaperone on Turner's field trips in elementary school, but it was fine, because his son was such a joy to be around. He builds up to when Turner decided to go to Stanford University—"the ultimate prize for someone who had worked so hard for so long."
But once at Stanford, he struggled to fit in and "fell into the culture of alcohol consumption and partying." Though it may be understandable that Turner's father would use all of this history as evidence that his son is a good person who fell into the hands of bad people, perhaps the most conflicted testimony is one of how he reflects on his son's current mental state:
"Brock always enjoyed certain types of food and is a very good cook himself. I was always excited to buy him a big ribeye steak to grill or to get his favorite snack for him. I had to make sure to hide some of my favorite pretzels or chips because I knew they wouldn't be around long after Brock walked in from a long swim practice. Now he barely consumes any food and eats only to exist...That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life."
As for those "20 minutes of action" that Turner's father uses to describe how the sexual assault his son committed has "deeply altered" his life, we'd like to write him a letter about how he should acknowledge how those 20 minutes altered the survivor's life:
Dear Brock Turner's Father,
I’m sure you’re probably relieved at Brock’s sentence. I mean, six months? You asked for a year or less, and you got less. I mean, you only have six months free before you have to start hiding your "favorite pretzels or chips" again, but hey, at least your son won’t be rotting in prison for the next 14 years.
But there’s something I’d like for you to consider—or, specifically, someone who isn’t your son. You spoke of how your son couldn’t sleep or eat for stress—that he ate "only to exist," not for pleasure. I’d like you to reflect on how hard that must have been for you, to have to watch your child suffer like that. But did you think your son’s victim did not suffer far worse repercussions? How do you think she felt when she was reading articles about how she was found unconscious and bleeding behind a dumpster? How do you think she felt when her younger sister blamed herself for your son's actions, when not even he could admit guilt? How do you think she felt this past year when she was forced to accept that her life would never, ever be the same because of your son’s "20 minutes of action" on the night of January 17, 2015?
I bet that you can’t even answer those questions because if you did, you’d have to face the fact that your son is a convicted felon and rapist. But I can't say it better than the survivor can:
"You made me a victim. In newspapers my name was 'unconscious intoxicated woman,' 10 syllables, and nothing more than that. For a while, I believed that that was all I was. I had to force myself to relearn my real name, my identity. To relearn that this is not all that I am. That I am not just a drunk victim at a frat party found behind a dumpster, while you are the All American swimmer at a top university, innocent until proven guilty, with so much at stake. I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt, my life was put on hold for over a year, waiting to figure out if I was worth something."
I'd like to end this letter the same way your son's victim did—someone who's much stronger than your son and can recognize that survivors everywhere deserve the support and justice that she should have gotten, and that regardless of who he is or what he does, your son is still a convicted rapist who deserves to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.:
"And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. As the author Anne Lamott once wrote, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you."
Click here to sign a petition to remove Judge Aaron Persky from the bench.
Top photo of Stanford University via Wikmedia Commons; Gavel photo via Brian Turner
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