Actual human trash fire proves white male privilege is still a thing
by Rachel Poe
Features & List Co-editor
“How fast Brock swims does not lessen the severity of what happened to me, and should not lessen the severity of his punishment. If a first time offender from an underprivileged background was accused of three felonies and displayed no accountability for his actions other than drinking, what would his sentence be? The fact that Brock was an athlete at a private university should not be seen as an entitlement to leniency, but as an opportunity to send a message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class.” - from the letter read by the victim directly to her attacker, Brock Turner, at his June 2016 sentencing.
In January 2015, two Stanford grad students were riding their bikes past a frat party when they noticed a couple off to the side, behind a dumpster. Upon closer inspection, the two students realized that the woman was not moving and confronted the man on top of her. After a short interaction, the assailant, later to be identified as Brock Turner, turned and ran away from the scene. One of the grad students chased Turner down before tackling him, while the other checked to make sure the woman was alive. The woman was breathing but she was unmoving as she lied there with her dress hiked up, her necklace tangled around her neck, and her underwear shoved down her legs. The victim, a 23 year-old woman who had gone to the party to spend time with her little sister who was home visiting, would not know she had been assaulted until the next morning when she awoke.
Brock Turner at the time was only a Freshmen with a swimming scholarship at Stanford, or at least, that’s all anyone could focus on. This case became more than just a heinous, disgusting, and violent crime against an unconscious woman, but a media circus fueled by elitist privilege. The narrative surrounding this case told the world that the only life that was being ruined was that of a private school swimmer on the Olympic track, completely ignoring the profound impact that that night and trial would have on his victim. Remember her? The unconscious one? The one Turner forced himself upon? Covered in scrapes and bruises and with leaves tangled in her hair and dirt and abrasions inside her vagina? What about her life? Her potential? She doesn’t deserve to have her life derailed so easily like this, the victim never does.
Throughout the trial, Turner only accepted responsibility for being too intoxicated, never owning up to brutally assaulting this helpless woman. Alcohol is never an excuse to force yourself upon another. This is a pathetic cop-out, really. And although Turner did end up being convicted of three felonies- assault with intent to rape an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object- the real outrage came when Turner was only sentenced to six months of jail time and three years’ probation instead of the six years requested by the prosecution. Judge Aaron Persky thought that jail would have a “severe impact” on Turner because it wasn’t like he had raped someone and had a severe impact on them or anything. (Did I mention that Persky was also a Stanford alum? Yeah. Let that sink in.)
Turner’s own dad even claimed in a letter that “[Turner’s] life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.” Yes, his father actually called a rape “20 minutes of action,” belittling the pain and suffering his son caused a woman and her family, belittling the pain and suffering of countless other rape and sexual assault victims. That’s a pure example of the ignorance caused by privilege. Turner and his father probably don’t understand what it’s like to be afraid to walk home by yourself, or to get catcalled on the street for just wearing shorts- wearing anything really, or to be seen as just a sexual object, as only “20 minutes of action”. To not be seen as a fucking human being that deserves respect.
And because this case couldn’t get any better, Turner was released from jail on September 2nd, after only serving 3 of the 6 months he was sentenced to. In California, sentences can be reduced by 15% to 50% due to an imitates’ good behavior. Turner has since returned to his home in Ohio and proceeded to register as a sex offender, a title that will never go away. In addition to his new label, Turner has been permanently banned from participating in any USA Swimming events so bye, bye Olympics. (Maybe take note, NFL? That’s how you deal with domestic abusers and rapists.) Judge Aaron Persky has gotten his just deserts as well. In addition to serious campaigns and petitions to recall Persky, but he has since been removed from another sexual assault case and has ceased hearing criminal trials.
In the end, the main focus of this case has always been on Turner and Persky and the lack of justice served, but we must give credit to the victim. She may not feel like this most days as a result of what has happened to her over the course of the past 21 months, but she is incredibly strong and brave and deserves your respect. The victim has decided to remain anonymous throughout this media storm but her full letter to Brock Turner can be found online. I highly recommend you read it because she articulates all the things wrong with this case with more poise and precision than I ever could. In an interview with Buzzfeed, the victim said that she hoped that “this will wake people up.” This act of violence was not caused by “alcohol culture” on college campus, by how many drinks the victim had, or by what she was wearing (a simple cardigan and dress) but by the poor decisions made by Turner that night. So fuck you, Brock Turner. Have fun with all those armed protesters outside your house.