Second: Justice is a Better Story
Why do I call myself a feminist? Because I believe that it is still necessary.
Warning: this post may contain triggers for victims of sexual abuse. Please read wisely.
Dear Turner Family, Judge Persky, et al,
I should not have to write this. I shouldn’t. I can’t believe I am writing it.
But I am.
Being sorry you got caught is not the same as being sorry you did it.
Regret is not remorse.
And rape is not okay.
I apologize for the lateness of this post; the text of the judge’s decision was not available to me till Tuesday night, and I wanted to do it full justice. The text (which I will be quoting) can be found on the Guardian (link here).
Here are the facts.
Fact: Brock Turner was drunk. His victim was also drunk. Drunk to the point of unconsciousness.
Fact: Brock Turner had a history of recreational drug use and underage drinking.
Fact: Brock Turner was found assaulting her unconscious body behind a dumpster in an alley.
Fact: Brock Turner ran away when confronted by two people, leaving his unconscious victim half-nude and bruised behind a dumpster in an alley.
Fact: The bruising on her body and the debris inside her was consistent with assault.
Fact: Brock Turner was found guilty of:
- Assault with intent to rape an intoxicated woman
- Sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object
- Sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.
Fact: Brock Turner was sentenced to six months in county jail with possibility of parole after three months.
“The role of the Court at sentencing is to essentially follow the roadmap that our system of criminal justice sets out for the Court in sentencing decisions. It’s not completely an unbridled discretion. It is constrained by factors that are contained in the Rules of Court. And so I’ve tried do that to the best of my ability. And my tentative decision is to grant probation… with the defendant to serve six months in county jail.”
I don’t really have anything to say to this. My friends who are far more well-versed in our legal system can speak to its accuracy or inaccuracy. I do know that this sentence was based on a belief by probation officers that Turner showed genuine ‘remorse’ for his actions. (source here)
I saw no evidence of that in anything I have read.
The factors Judge Persky considered in granting probation: the first is that he was a first offender. Fair enough. (Although there was a great deal of evidence presented that Mr. Turner engaged in illegal drug use prior to this incident.) Then, however, he starts talking about alcohol:
“The argument can be made that it’s more morally culpable for someone with no alcohol in their system to commit an offense like that than with someone who was legally intoxicated at the rate of .16 or so.”
Just because an argument can be made, doesn’t make it a good one. If you are morally culpable for hitting someone while driving drunk, and what’s more, legally culpable above and beyond the normal culpability, shouldn’t that apply to sexually assaulting someone, as well?
Do we ask those hit by a drunk driver how drunk they were at the time?
“some weight should be given to the fact that a defendant who is, albeit voluntarily, intoxicated versus a defendant who commits an assault with intent to commit rape, a completely sober defendant, there is less moral culpability attached to the defendant who is legally intoxicated. That’s as a comparative measure. But I don’t attach very much weight to that.”
tl/dr: since he was drunk he didn’t actually MEAN to rape her; drunk people are not responsible for their actions. (If I beat a man to a bloody pulp while intoxicated, does that mean I did not intend to do it?) that’s just “as a comparative measure,” though.
He ran away. He knew that what he was doing was wrong, so he RAN AWAY. (source) He assaulted her with intent to commit rape. Drunkeness should not in any way lessen the severity of the response.
The third factor is the vulnerability of the victim. And the victim in this case was extremely vulnerable… So I have considered that.
I am honestly confused about what this is supposed to mean. Is the vulnerability of the victim a mitigating factor, or a damning one? Speak up, legal experts.
“[fourth] Whether the defendant inflicted physical or emotional injury. And as we’ve heard today, as I heard at trial, there was both physical and devastating emotional injury inflicted on the victim. That weighs, obviously, in favor of denying probation.
Second – fifth, degree of monetary loss to the victim is not really applicable. Number six, the defendant was an active participant in the crime. That would weigh in favor of denying probation.”
Recap: two definite reasons to deny probation; one reason (drunkeness) possibly for giving probation; and one reason (vulnerability) unclear. With me so far?
Then Judge Persky gets to his real reasons for granting probation (as well as the six month sentence.) Number one:
“I have considered the character letters that have been provided by Mr. Turner’s friends, family, which indicate a period of, essentially, good behavior.”
Have you read these character letters? Let’s go on a trip, shall we: (original letters found here, selections taken from here)
Kelly Hopkins, Brock’s aunt: “I am the mother of 3 teenage daughters. With the honesty and conviction of every breath I take and every bone in my body, I am writing to tell you that I would trust Brock with their lives.” (She also called the rape he perpetrated and its aftermath, “Incredulous circumstances.”)
Marianne Pohlmann, family friend: “Brock is a decent, hard working, young man who knows right from wrong.”
Meghan Olson, assistant swim coach for the Dayton Raiders: “I appreciate being given this opportunity to speak up on behalf of this young man that I still believe to be a remarkable young person.”
Jennifer Jervis, his former French teacher: “I would completely trust Brock Turner with my own daughter.”
Anna Weisman, friend: “In many ways I wish I was more like Brock.”
Sarah Szumnarski of Oakwood Adapted Athletics: “His family has instilled in him strong values and respect for others… I hope you will keep in mind his supportive family and friends and strong morals when making your decision about his future.” (Author’s note: This person, among others, mention Brock’s work with Special Olympics contestants and other members of the disability community as points in his favor. Working with disabled people does not make you an angel. Stop treating us like outcasts.)
Erika Chick, friend: “Brock is someone special and deserves a second chance. A mistake could have been made (yes, because raping an unconscious woman is DEFINITELY just a mistake) however it is so unlike the teammate that I known (sic) since childhood… My parents have even trusted him, over many other high school boys to spend the night in our house numerous times to avoid a long drive before practice.”
Abby Rubins, friend: “If you ask me or anyone who knows him, we would tell you that he would never hurt a female (or male) in any way, shape, or form.” (His victim would beg to differ.)
Alexandra Lamb, Paws for a Cause: “I hope my words helped you get to know the real Brock Turner, the guy who wouldn’t hurt a fly… the guy, who was, and still is, someone with great leadership qualities. Brock was misconstrued as a criminal, which he simply is not.” (A jury disagreed with you. Twelve people heard the evidence and said, “Yes, this guy has committed a crime. He is a criminal.”)
Beth Johnson, Oakwood High School Registrar, “To this day, I would and will defend the character of Brock Turner.”
His character letters repeatedly claim that it is IMPOSSIBLE for him to have committed this crime, because he is a good person. Ay.
It is with his family’s letters, however, that the complete and ugly picture of entitlement comes together:
“a steep price … for 20 minutes of action”.
“He will never be his happy go lucky self with that easy going personality and welcoming smile. 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.”
“I beg of you, please don’t send him to jail/prison. Look at him. He won’t survive it. He will be damaged forever and I fear he would be a major target. Stanford boy, college kid, college athlete — all the publicity. This would be a death sentence for him.”
“His dreams have been shattered by this. No NCAA Championships. No Stanford degree, no swimming in the Olympics (and I honestly know he would have made a future team), no medical school, no becoming an Orthopedic surgeon.”
“I know what a broken heart feels like. It is a physical pain that starts just below the collar bone and extends to below the rib cage, it is a crushing and heavy ache that feels like I am being squeezed. This feeling has not left my body since the verdict. This verdict has destroyed us.”
The verdict destroyed them. Not the revelation that their son saw no problem assaulting an unconscious woman. Not the fact that their son drank and did recreational drugs. No. What destroyed them was not remorse. What destroyed them was that their son was going to be punished for “20 minutes of action.”
20 minutes that could have been spent not molesting an unconscious woman. 20 minutes that showed what kind of man Brock Turner’s parents really raised. Not a sweet, innocent, caring, kind, trustworthy, respectable man. An entitled, self-centered, untrustworthy man.
They care more about his inability to enjoy eating steak than they do about the woman who was shattered by his actions.
I have gone on way longer than I intended; you can judge the facts for yourself and come to your own conclusions. But let me finish with this quote from Judge Persky:
“Number seven is whether the defendant is remorseful. And that’s maybe one of the most conflicted and difficult issues in this case. Because Mr. Turner came before us today and said he was genuinely sorry for all the pain that he has caused to [Jane] and her family. And I think that is a genuine feeling of remorse.”
But he never acknowledged that he assaulted her.
Is that true remorse?