In March 2016, Brock Turner, who the media continues to refer to as the "Stanford University swimmer" and the rest of us (rightly) refer to as the "Stanford rapist," was convicted on three counts of sexual assault: sexual assault of an unconscious person, sexual assault of an intoxicated person, and sexual assault with intent to commit rape. Turner was released after serving only three months of an atrociously lenient six-month sentence.
Last Friday, Brock Turner’s attorney, Eric Multhaup, filed to appeal Turner’s conviction. According to The New York Times, Multhap is appealing on the grounds that Turner was not granted a fair trial. Multhap claims that the court barred the use of character witnesses, i.e. people who would have attested to Turner’s reputation as a swimmer and an upstanding student. Multhaup argues that if the jury were convinced of Turner’s character, they would not have considered the case a crime. Never mind that Turner’s initial conviction was essentially perfunctory, more like a judicial scolding than an actual convictio,n for fear of interfering in Turner’s career potential.
In some ways, Turner’s hearing seemed to resemble an MRA meeting more than a fair trial, with the judge mistaking Turner as the traumatized victim. Not to mention putting the lives and safety of future women at risk, as predators are often repeat offenders.
The same New York Times article reports that Multhaup also decried the use of the word “dumpster” in Turner’s trial, stating that he “takes issue with…[the prosecutor’s] many references to the Dumpster during the trial, particularly her repeated use of the phrase ''behind the Dumpster.'" He goes on to point out that the word "implied moral depravity, callousness, and culpability on the appellant’s part.”
Malthaup seems to be overlooking the fact that the crime took place behind a dumpster, and that rape is, in fact, a morally depraved, callous act for which the justice system should be holding people, specifically rapists, accountable.
Nearly a third of the 172-page appeal relies heavily on slut-shaming, discussing how intoxicated the victim was. In true rape culture fashion, when a woman is drunk, she deserves anything that happens to her, her personhood disappears, and anything that is done to her is excusable.
Really, there should be no appeal for cases like Turner’s. According to a RAINN statistic, only seven out of 1,000 rapists will face a felony conviction, and only six will go to prison. Brock Turner barely faced a consequence for ruining a woman’s life. Yet, the media, his parents, and his lawyers are still hell bent on treating his actions as if they are up for debate, as if they were not intended, were not crimes, and should have no consequences.
Turner’s appeal comes in the wake of women standing up across the country and proclaiming that men, no matter who they are, need to be held accountable for their inexcusable actions — and of course, many of the men who have been accused of sexual harassment and assault in the past two months are denying it.
The biggest casualties of sexual assault are not men’s lost careers; it’s the people that they hurt, traumatize, harass, coerce, and violate. In the word’s of Emily Doe, Turner’s victim, “assault is not an accident.” So let’s stop treating it as if it were.
Top Photo: Brock Turner Mugshot
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Sarah C. Epstein is a writer and creator living in NYC. In her free time she enjoys eating berries, reflecting on her dreams, and hanging out with her pet snake, Sydney. Find her online at cricketepstein.com.