Brock Turner gets released from jail Friday, September 2, 2016, after serving three months in Santa Clara County jail.
For those of you not familiar, Mr. Turner, a scholar athlete and Olympic swimming hopeful, was convicted in March of three felony counts: assault with the intent to commit rape of an unconscious person, sexual penetration of an unconscious person and sexual penetration of an intoxicated person. He attacked a woman identified as drunk behind a garbage bin on the Stanford University campus in January 2015.
He completed half of the paltry six-month jail term Judge Aaron Persky imposed upon him. Prosecutors asked for six years.
Most people accused of rape are never found guilty — the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network estimates 97 out of 100 perpetrators of sexual assault avoid punishment. Turner’s crime, however, had witnesses. There was no doubt.
One summer. Three months. 2,160 hours. Not even a full swim season.
Movies released when he entered county jail — instead of serving the prison time he should have received — may still be playing in theaters.
Don’t get me wrong; I know Brock’s life will never be the same. He is now the poster child for what is wrong with our justice system when it comes to rape. He is the shining example of how people in authority do not take sexual abuse seriously. His life is forever changed.
And perhaps I could find compassion for Mr. Turner if he or his family had any empathy for his victim, instead of attributing his “mistake” to two individuals who consumed too much alcohol.
But one thing universally common to rapists is that they don’t think about what their victim goes through. To commit a crime that heinous, it often involves a tremendous amount of dehumanizing.
Victims, however, often do not have the luxury of detachment. Rape is a devastatingly intimate crime that women take with them for the rest of their lives. While some victims are severely injured, become pregnant or contract a disease, for most it is the emotional weight of the crime that breaks them.
Raped women often deal with nightmares, panic attacks, waves of self-doubt, and an overwhelming sense of distrust. They often cannot work because of the fear of another attack. The constant shame inhibits relationships.
Some victims say they are never the same again. It is a lifetime prison sentence.
Why should this matter to you? If you are the parent of girls, you should know that the chance of a woman between the age of 12 to 28 getting sexually assaulted is one in three.
I have three daughters. Those are odds I can’t live with.
We keep telling our girls that they can do anything and be anything, but the cold reality is they can’t. Women are constantly in sexual danger, and it limits our potential. Until we change the conversation from who gets raped to who commits rapes, the “Rape Culture” in our society lives on.
Michael Kimmel, a sociologist at the State University of New York who has received international recognition for his work on men and masculinity, calls it a matter of carrots and sticks.
I think the stick is we need very strong laws with uncompromising enforcement all the way through the legal system so that we make it clear as culture that we won’t stand for this. As a culture we can say the way we try to say around murder for example, or auto theft for example, ‘this is beyond the pale, you cannot do this. We will come down so hard on you, you won’t want to do this.’ O.K. that’s the stick. What’s the carrot? If we as men make it very clear to the women in our lives that we don’t support men’s violence against women, that we are actively opposed to it, that we are willing to confront other men who we see doing aggressive things, then our relationships with women will actually improve.
All the weight does not lay with our legal system, however, or with society as a whole. There is a burden we carry as parents as well.
Before sentencing, Brock Turner’s father issued a statement detailing the impact this event has on his son, which included how he could no long enjoy a good steak nor follow his dreams to become an Olympic swimmer. He insinuated that the prosecutor’s recommendation for prison time was unfair, suggesting that county jail with probation (instead of the usual mandatory sentencing of several years in lock-up) is a “steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action.” He felt that Brock has suffered —will suffer — enough for his role in this situation. He also promised his son’s time would be better spent educating other college students on the misuse of alcohol.
His statement forgot one small detail: Brock Turner is not the victim.
Brock’s life changed the moment he decided to pursue a woman so intoxicated she could not speak or even stand on her own. That mistake — that crime — cost him his Olympic hopes.
The fact that the most central figures in his life — his good friends, his parents, and a California Supreme Court Judge — minimized his role in this event will cost Brock Turner something much more: any chance of learning that his actions have measured consequences.
More importantly, allowing him out of jail after only three months gives every other young man on campuses across the country an out for rape. Intoxication is a mistake and sexual assault just an ugly consequence of poor judgment.
As a parent, I can’t imagine the heartbreak for the Turners. It must be devastating to watch your golden child’s life destroyed because of what may have been his first drunken binge at a frat party.
This pales in comparison, however, to finding out your daughter was violated in rubbish by a young man that didn’t even know her name. Living with the fact that the convicted perpetrator has no remorse about the crime, and in fact, won’t even admit to it, must be unbearable.
But knowing he walked out of the county jail after three months — one-quarter of a year — well, that is enough to destroy a victim and their family forever.
I do not know the type of parents Brock Turner has or how they chose to raise him. I can only hope that as the California penal system releases him back out into society, his parents will begin to hold him accountable for his actions.
He made an incredible mistake and will pay for it for the rest of his life. But it is a parent’s job to help him understand what he did was wrong — not make it easier for him. He committed a violent crime and needs help. If the Turners do not understand this, they need help, too.
To date, no one from the Turner family publicly apologized to the victim. Perhaps this is the result of legal counsel, but I can only hope Brock’s parents will help their son see his wrongdoings and give some semblance of closure to his victim. The justice system sure didn’t.
And I am scared. I am scared that one day my girls will drink too much at a party, experiment with drugs, or trust the wrong person, and the direction of their life will forever change in that one second because someone like Brock wasn’t held accountable; because another man felt raping a young woman wasn’t that big of a deal.
Brock Turner gets out of jail after serving only 90 days for being convicted on three felony accounts by a group of his peers.
His victim will pay for his actions for the rest of her life.
We all must live with that.
From the victim’s letter to her assailant at sentencing:
As a society, we cannot forgive everyone’s first sexual assault or digital rape. It doesn’t make sense. The seriousness of rape has to be communicated clearly, we should not create a culture that suggests we learn that rape is wrong through trial and error. The consequences of sexual assault needs to be severe enough that people feel enough fear to exercise good judgment even if they are drunk, severe enough to be preventative.
This post was originally published on Playdates on Fridays.
About the Author
Whitney Fleming is a marketing consultant, freelance writer and mom to three tween girls. She blogs about parenting, relationships and w(h)ine on her blog, Playdates on Fridays, where she talks about serious stuff, without taking herself too seriously. In her free time, she tries to dispel the rumor that she is a typical suburban mom despite the fact that she is often seen driving her minivan to soccer practices and PTA meetings. Join her on Facebook at Playdates on Fridays or on Twitter @PlaydatesFriday.