Hey Judge Persky, How Do We Explain A 6 Month Rape Sentence To Our Daughters?

by Maria Guido
Originally Published: 
Image via The Recorder/ Stanford

Judge sentences convicted Stanford rapist who faced a maximum sentence of 14 years in state prison to six months in county jail

On January 18th, 2014, 19-year-old Brock Allen Turner was arrested after a couple of students on bikes spotted Turner thrusting his body on top of a half naked, unconscious woman behind a dumpster on the Stanford University grounds. The students tackled Turner after he attempted to run, and called police. When the police were interviewing the men, one was crying so hard he could barely speak because of what he had seen.

Turner was arrested* and charged with five felony counts: rape of an intoxicated person, rape of an unconscious person, sexual penetration by a foreign object of an intoxicated woman, sexual penetration by a foreign object of an unconscious woman, and assault with intent to commit rape. He was released from jail on $150,000 bail.

He was caught in the act. He withdrew from Stanford. The university barred him from campus, forbade him from re-enrolling, and swiftly removed his profile from the Stanford swim team site. For once it seemed that a University was handling a rape accusation the way it should be handled.

Turner has maintained that his ”intentions were not to try and rape a girl without her consent.” Whatever that means. He was found penetrating an unconscious woman. There is no way he could walk away from these charges, right? How could the usual victim-blaming script play out when a man is caught raping a woman who was completely unresponsive?

He didn’t walk away from the charges. He was found guilty of three of the five felonies he was charged with: assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated/unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person, and penetration of an unconscious person.

Then Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sentenced him to six months in Santa Clara County jail.

Six months. With good behavior, he’s expected to serve three.

[shareable_quote]“A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him … I think he will not be a danger to others.”[/shareable_quote]

He was facing a maximum sentence of 14 years in state prison, and the judge gave him six months in county jail after he was convicted by a jury on three felony charges. The judge** — a former Stanford athlete — said this:

“A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him … I think he will not be a danger to others.”

He thought a prison sentence would have a “severe impact” on a rapist. He was impressed by Turner’s remorse and by the fact that Turner plans to start a cause in which he’ll teach and educate college students about the effects of excessive drinking and sexual promiscuity.

Even in his “remorse,” he’s blaming alcohol and “sexual promiscuity.” Sexual promiscuity has nothing to do with rape. He’s not serving time for being sexually promiscuous and drunk. He’s serving time for being a rapist.

Turner’s own defense attorney was quoted outside the courtroom saying, “Hey, if my daughter was a victim of this I’d be livid. I’d be furious. I’d be asking for a very serious punishment.”

The incredible young woman Turner assaulted wrote a 12 page impact statement that she read, directly to him, in the courtroom. It starts, “You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today.” You should read it and share it far and wide. This letter will save women. This letter will make victims feel less alone.

Here is one of the many, many compelling points she makes in her statement:

“Speak out against campus drinking culture. That’s what we’re speaking out against? You think that’s what I’ve spent the past year fighting for? Not awareness about campus sexual assault, or rape, or learning to recognize consent. Campus drinking culture. Down with Jack Daniels. Down with Skyy Vodka. If you want talk to high school kids about drinking go to an AA meeting. You realize, having a drinking problem is different than drinking and then forcefully trying to have sex with someone? Show men how to respect women, not how to drink less.”

There’s disturbingly no remorse from a man who a judge is going easy on for being so remorseful. Turner never apologized for assaulting his victim, only drinking.

He apologized for drinking.

It’s not surprising the defense would place so much emphasis on the drinking that was done. As if alcohol magically transforms someone from an upstanding citizen to a person who would push a woman to the ground, remove her underwear, thrust on her unconscious body and insert his fingers — along with dirt and leaves — into her. But let’s focus on the drinking. And while we’re at it — let’s reiterate again and again how much she consumed.

Rape culture has a subtle, pervasive way of permeating everything. If you are unfamiliar with the term, it speaks to the way in which society blames victims of sexual assault while normalizing male sexual violence. Its influence leads reporters to begin a story that is about five felony rape counts and an athlete who was essentially caught in the act of committing the alleged crimes like this:

Liquor flowed freely at the Stanford University fraternity party two weeks ago where prosecutors say a student athlete met a young woman who’d joined the revelry with friends and later raped her nearby, according to police reports released Thursday.

“Liquor flowed freely at the Stanford University fraternity party” where a student athlete met a young woman who’d “joined the revelry.” The second paragraph of the story is this:

He drank seven beers with swigs of whiskey. She added a couple shots of liquor to the four she drank before arriving, and then a beer.

You see, it’s important that we start the story this way. It’s important that we know exactly how much alcohol they consumed so we can later say things like, “he was too drunk to really know what he was doing” and “why did she get so drunk that she couldn’t protect herself?” Because rape culture makes sure victims are always told it was somehow their fault. It makes sure society reads that narrative first – the narrative of two drunk people reveling at a party and a victim who was complicit because of the amount of drinks she had.

She wasn’t complicit.

She was unconscious.

Judge Persky cited Turner’s age and lack of criminal history as a reason for his leniency. Maybe we should give the convicted felon a medal for never having been caught assaulting an unconscious woman before? We’ll let him off easy because we don’t want to “impact” his life by putting him somewhere all other convicted rapists need to go: prison. This is the message we’re sending our daughters and sons:

How can we expect a drunk man to resist an unconscious body that can’t fight him off?

[shareable_quote]”Do you remember what time you woke up? Were you wearing your cardigan? What color was your cardigan? Do you remember any more from that night? No? Okay, well, we’ll let Brock fill it in.”[/shareable_quote]

We don’t know the answer to that, because in this case he’s never admitted to assaulting her — only to drinking too much. How can someone show remorse when they don’t actually think they’ve done anything wrong? He can’t. He hasn’t. But here is a list of the questions his victim had to answer in the courtroom — she included them in her impact statement:

How old are you? How much do you weigh? What did you eat that day? Well what did you have for dinner? Who made dinner? Did you drink with dinner? No, not even water? When did you drink? How much did you drink? What container did you drink out of? Who gave you the drink? How much do you usually drink? Who dropped you off at this party? At what time? But where exactly? What were you wearing? Why were you going to this party? What’ d you do when you got there? Are you sure you did that? But what time did you do that? What does this text mean? Who were you texting? When did you urinate? Where did you urinate? With whom did you urinate outside? Was your phone on silent when your sister called? Do you remember silencing it? Really because on page 53 I’d like to point out that you said it was set to ring. Did you drink in college? You said you were a party animal? How many times did you black out? Did you party at frats? Are you serious with your boyfriend? Are you sexually active with him? When did you start dating? Would you ever cheat? Do you have a history of cheating? What do you mean when you said you wanted to reward him? Do you remember what time you woke up? Were you wearing your cardigan? What color was your cardigan? Do you remember any more from that night? No? Okay, well, we’ll let Brock fill it in.

There is no judge that can strip this woman of the justice she deserves. She’s not getting it in a California courtroom, but she’s getting it simply by the fact that she is a being that will be a beacon of light to others, not a spoiled, selfish, entitled rapist who is getting off because there are judges like Aaron Persky who apparently believe a woman’s body is for the taking.

It’s not.

“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,” she concludes her impact statement by addressing women everywhere, not the attacker she so bravely faced in that courtroom.

“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.”

*There is no trace of a mugshot — anywhere. All searches lead to his smug, smiling, face in a suit and tie.

** There are claims Judge Persky is running unopposed for re-election on June 7 and is not on the ballot, but we can’t substantiate that claim. California election information does not list Santa Clara County Superior Judge elections on June 7.

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