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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 18, 2018

A rapist goes free

The injustice of the justice system
By Karyn Spory | Sep 02, 2016

By the time you sit down to read this, Brock Turner will probably be on his way home.

If that name sounds slightly familiar, you may know him better by his more common moniker, The Stanford Rapist.

In March, Turner was convicted of three felony counts of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster following a fraternity party in January of 2015.

I’ve written before about rape and how rape cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute as the question of consent can become he said she said. Or often times she said no, but the way she was dressed said ‘yes’, her reputation said ‘of course’ or all those tequila shots said ‘go on.’

But, if you could categorize a sexual assault case as a slam-dunk, it seemed this one should have been it. Turner was caught, quite literally, with his pants down, standing over the unconscious victim by two Stanford students during a late night bike ride. The rapist fled the scene, but was tackled and held by one of the good Samaritans while the police were called.

However, the 23-year-old woman, whose name has been withheld to protect her identity, wrote in her 7,244 word victim impact statement, which can be found online, that she was told she should be prepared not to win her case. “I was warned, because he knows you don’t remember, he is going to get to write the script,” she wrote. “He can say whatever he wants and no one can contest it.”

The rapist and his defense team did just that. They said the victim was so inebriated that she doesn’t remember consenting. Yet, when Turner was convicted, he blamed alcohol and the “party culture” at Stanford for his actions. Unfortunately, this is a classic case of victim blaming. The assaulter could not control his actions because of his substance use, yet the victim bares the burden of their substance use because “if they hadn’t been drunk, it never would have happened to them.”

Someone that believed Turner’s narrative was Judge Aaron Persky of the Santa Clara Superior Court, who presided over the trial.

In June, Persky said the sexual-assault victim had endured “physical and devastating emotional injury,” yet he felt the convicted rapist had also been through a great deal and that a prison sentence would have “a severe impact” and “adverse collateral consequences.” That’s how a white, blonde haired, blue-eyed man, who once had Olympic swimming potential, is walking the streets of California today. Because the judge felt the damage to a rapist was as, or more, important to that of the victim – a woman who says Turner robbed her of “my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice.”

Turner was sentenced to six months in county jail, far less than the six years prosecutors had asked for. Turner will be released today after serving only three months, most likely because of good behavior, the SF Gate reports.

Since Persky’s decision, sexual assault cases have been removed from his docket and there is a petition with approximately 1.3 million signatures demanding he be vacated from the bench in Santa Clara Superior Court.

If anything good came out of this, it’s probably these two things – The Stanford Rapist sparked outrage, and in that anger, a conversation about rape, victim shaming and white male privilege began. I hope that conversation continues. Secondly, on Aug. 30, the California Assembly unanimously (66-0) passed a measure that requires a prison sentence for anyone convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious person. Current California law only imposes a prison sentence when physical force is used. The new law mandates a prison term whenever the victim is intoxicated or unconscious and the perpetrator does not have to use force, NPR reports.

So, if this story upsets, outrages or makes you uncomfortable, become part of the conversation. See what Iowa state law is for rape and the sentences for sexual assault perpetrators. See what local organizations do to help rape victims and please, don’t ever fall into victim shaming and say, or think to yourself, “she had it coming.”



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