“20 minutes of action” for you means a lifetime of hell for her

Brock Turner 2
Brock Turner, convicted sex offender

Brock Allen Turner: Your father deemed your sexual assault of an unconscious young woman behind a dumpster on the Stanford University campus as your “20 minutes of action.” For her, that 20 minutes is a lifetime of hell.

What you did on that January night in 2015 is sickening and horrific. So is what has happened since. You, your father, your attorney, the judge presiding over your case, and others prove once again that the rape culture in the United States is “alive and well,” with sexual violence and assault normalized and victims blamed for being attacked.

Where do I start? It goes from worse to intolerable, including treating you, a convicted sex offender, with kid gloves; inflaming the excuse-the-rapist/blame-the-victim mentality; refusing accountability and making excuses; and favoring violent perpetrators lucky enough to have the “right” skin color, privilege, and athletic skills.

Unfortunately, in our work to make the world a better, safer place for women, we at The Advocates for Human Rights all too often experience the travesties and miscarriages of justice such as those rife in the your case.

Your preferential treatment includes the shocking sentence handed down by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky. For three violent felony convictions, the judge sentenced you to a mere six months in county jail, far less than the 14-year maximum sentence and the six years in state prison the prosecutors had requested. “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” Judge Persky lamented, more concerned about the welfare of a star athlete than he was for the victim. Lucky you — you could be back walking the streets after only three months if you behave yourself. Now, your attorneys have stated you will appeal your convictions.

Your case held the potential of being a landmark in the nationwide struggle to combat sexual assault on campus. Judge Persky could have sent the message that no one is above the law, regardless of social class, race, gender, or other factors. Instead, he did the opposite, making women at Stanford and across the country less safe.

Not only does Judge Perksy’s gentle “punishment” give license to potential perpetrators, it further violates women and girls who are assaulted, and deepens and perpetuates their fears. Knowing they will relive the assaults and be traumatized over and over again and cognizant that their own behaviors will be scrutinized, victims are kept in the dark — silent, shamed, and shredded of value.

Attention to and accountability for your actions was clearly and intentionally directed away from you. You and others say you are not responsible―the alcohol and the victim are to blame. Despite the guilty verdicts, you refuse to acknowledge what you did. You told Judge Persky that the “party culture” had “shattered” you, causing you to assault the woman.

Having a drinking problem is different than drinking and forcing someone to have sex. “Alcohol was not the one who stripped me, fingered me, had my head dragging against the ground, with me almost fully naked,” the victim said in her statement directed at you. She further stated:

Having too much to drink was an amateur mistake that I admit to, but it is not criminal. Everyone in this room has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much, or knows someone close to them who has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much. Regretting drinking is not the same as regretting sexual assault. We were both drunk, the difference is I did not take off your pants and underwear, touch you inappropriately, and run away. That’s the difference.

Those of us who are horrified by your case can be inspired by the words of the woman who survived it:

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 every day 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.

By: Rosalyn Park, director of the Women’s Human Rights Program at The Advocates for Human Rights.

Note: It was decided to use Brock Turner’s class photo — a picture of a smiling, seemingly “nice,” wholesome guy. This photo was used in stories about his crimes, until recently. It seemed to influence and shape how many talked about his crime, including a very sympathetic, “once promising” Washington Post story, complete with details of his illustrous swimming career. It should be noted that it wasn’t until this week — after many demands and finger pointing — that Turner’s mugshot was finally released.