Sunday, June 5, 2016

Six months in jail and a lifetime in hell...

I just read the tragic story about a 23 year old woman who was brutally assaulted and raped behind a Dumpster in California in January 2015.  The woman's attacker, Brock Allen Turner, was then a Stanford University freshman and a star swimmer.  He had a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit in California and was in the middle of thrusting into his unconscious victim, when he was spotted by two Swedish Stanford graduate students who happened to be passing by on their bikes.  Thankfully, they didn't hesitate to get involved.  Turner tried to run, but the graduate students tackled him.

Now in June 2016, the former Stanford University athlete has finally had his day in court.  He faced his victim, who read a very powerful letter to him.  And then, Judge Aaron Perskey, handed down an astonishing sentence.  Turner, who had just been convicted of sexually penetrating an intoxicated and unconscious person with a foreign object, was sentenced to a mere six months in jail and probation.  Prosecutors had requested six years in prison.  Judge Perskey cited Turner's lack of a prior criminal history and said "A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him … I think he will not be a danger to others.”

But he was a danger to one person.  If you haven't read her letter to her attacker, I highly recommend reading it.  If you are a parent, especially to sons, I would have them read the letter, too.  Rape is too often swept under the rug.  

Brock Allen Turner will serve his time and be out and about again.  He may spend six months of hell in jail.  His victim has a lifetime of hellish memories to live with.  She says she doesn't remember the assault itself because she was unconscious.  What she does remember is waking up in a hospital, her clothes confiscated.  She remembers her hair full of pine needles and cuts and abrasions all over her body.  She remembers how the nurses documented her injuries and being warned that she should be tested for HIV, because sometimes it takes awhile for the virus to show up in tests.  

Brock Allen Turner's victim will then have memories of being in court, being asked very intrusive and pointed questions designed to remove the glare of guilt from the accused.  She will remember being asked what she was wearing, how much she was drinking, and whether or not she was sexually active.  She will spend the rest of her life remembering how another human being attacked her while she was passed out drunk.  It will color her relationships with other people, especially people with whom she will have intimate relationships.  It will affect her friends and family and perhaps future children if she has them.   This rape won't just affect the victim.  It will have ripple effects that will affect many people for years to come.

Before I read about Turner's attack on the unconscious woman, I was reminded of a case from my generation.  Back in the fall of 1990, I was a college freshman in Virginia.  I had a friend who was a student at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.  This friend and I had grown up near Williamsburg and she had opted to go to school close to home.

My former friend had a classmate at William & Mary who made huge headlines in 1990.  Her name is Katie Koestner. Koestner made the news when she went out on a date with a guy who raped her in her dorm room.  When she sought justice, she was basically brushed aside by the powers that be.  She fought back and was later pictured on the cover of Time Magazine.

I remember my ex friend making disparaging remarks about Katie Koestner.  A lot of people at William & Mary were upset because she was demanding justice and "cheapening" their degrees by making William & Mary "known" for rape.  William & Mary is an excellent school and the second oldest university in the United States.  I worked in their admissions office as a temp for awhile and saw the applications from would be students.  It was 1998, a full eight years after Koestner's rape.  Plenty of people still sought admission and thought of the school as outstanding.  I'm surprised at how stupid Koestner's classmates were in their assumption that Koestner's decision to report her rape makes their college less desirable.  In any case, many people seemed to think Koestner was making much ado about nothing and seeking attention.

Years later, when I was a graduate student at the University of South Carolina, Katie Koestner came to speak on campus.  I went to her presentation and was very impressed by her.  In fact, of all the people in the crowd that evening, I may have been one of the most affected.  I am the same age she is and I remember when her story was daily news.  Like Elizabeth Smart, Katie Koestner has turned her victimhood into something positive.  She now speaks about rape to college students.  

I have been fortunate.  I have never been raped.  However, I have friends and loved ones who have suffered rape.  Without going into too much detail, I want to remind people that it's not just women who are rape victims.  It happens to men, too.

Rape has ripple effects, just like any violent crime against a person does.  It's one thing if someone steals your iPod.  It's quite another if they steal your virginity, your sense of security, or your self worth.  The physical injuries may heal, but the emotional and mental injuries can last a lifetime.  Brock Turner will get his six months in jail, but his victim is likely to spend a lifetime in hell every time she remembers what she's been through.  That seems terribly unfair to me.

ETA:  Not long ago, I reviewed Liz Seccuro's book, Crash Into Me.  Seccuro was also raped at college.  She was a student at the University of Virginia in the mid 1980s and her case was similarly treated with suspicion and disdain.  I highly recommend her book.  It provides a valuable empathy check for those who want to discount rape.


  1. what a slap in the face to a victim for the slime bucket to be sentenced to a mere six months for his heinous crime. He would not be a danger? Perhaps the judge should be legally responsible and serve time with him concurrently if it turns out that the judge was wrong and that the rapist still is a danger. It's because of idiots like this judge that mandatory sentencing ranges now exist in many places. And just because he had no prior record doesn't necessarily mean he'd never done it before, but only that it was the first time he'd been caught. i know I'm preaching to the choir.

    1. Check out today's post for more outrage.

  2. As a father of two girls, I am outraged. I think six months is not enough time at all. The girl did nothing to deserve this. She is going to have to live with that for the rest of her life and I don’t think six months will do anything. Rape cases are never taken seriously, which is so frustrating.

    1. Rape cases against males are taken even less seriously, unfortunately. :(

      I agree, the sentence in this case is ludicrous.


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