Brock Turner, the man who raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster (and the newly minted poster boy for campus rape), was released on Friday after serving just three months of his six-month sentence.
Everyone is rightfully angered about the sentencing and the privilege that resulted in a slap on the wrist for multiple felonies. His crimes warrant at least 14 years in prison, and the fact that he served only half of his original sentence while in protective custody is a gross testament to just how powerful white privilege is.
However, this should surprise no one. The justice system being skewed in favor of rich, white, well-educated, cisgender and heterosexual men is not a news story. In a society where cops can kill innocent, unarmed people of color in the streets without even seeing an indictment, no one should be surprised that this extraordinarily privileged Stanford swimmer got off this easy. It’s worthy of outrage, but if you are shocked, you are not paying attention.
Should his sentence have been longer? Absolutely. He, like every other rapist, deserves to rot behind bars. Why Judge Aaron Persky was lenient is beyond me. Brock Turner sent pictures of this woman’s unconscious, naked body to his friends and bragged about his sexual conquests. He assaulted her behind a dumpster. He was laughing when he was caught. He was not and does not appear to be remorseful. If he was sober enough to photograph and brag about her, he was sober enough to know exactly what he was doing.
Beyond that, in the statement he made to the judge, he didn’t accept any shred of responsibility for his actions. He said he “never wants to drink again” because he believes alcohol put him in this situation. He didn’t say, “Wow, I never want to rape again. I did unconscionable damage to this woman’s life and my own. Next time I want to have sex with someone, I’ll ask for their consent and if they are too intoxicated, I will simply not have sex with them.” But no, he blamed it on booze, “peer pressure” and “promiscuity.”
But when talking about this case, people seem to be forgetting that in terms of getting justice, Brock Turner is the exception, not the rule. My best guess is that this is due to Law and Order: SVU, where Mariska Hargitay always catches the rapist and then locks him up for 25-plus years. This is not how it works. Dick Wolf doesn’t write the real world.
Here are some statistics (from RAINN):
Out of every 1000 rapes:
344 are reported to the police
63 reports lead to an arrest
13 cases are seen by prosecutors
7 cases will lead to a felony conviction
6 rapists will be incarcerated
For every 1000 rapes, 994 perpetrators will walk free. 99.4 percent of all rapists will never face a single consequence for their actions and there is nothing stopping them from doing it again and again and again. And they do.
Brock Turner is a part of the tiny percentage (.6 percent) of sexual assailants who has seen the inside of a jail cell. If there’s any news story here at all, it’s that a rapist actually served time (even if it was only for a few months and more on par with a “time-out”).
Turner will pay for what he did. Yes, his sentence was too light given the heinousness of his crimes and the fact that he’s being released early for “good behavior” seems like justice has not been served. However, more “justice” has been served in this case than in 99.4 percent of instances of sexual violence.
His face has been plastered on every media outlet for months. The entire world knows he’s a rapist. Even if people don’t immediately recognize his name twenty years from now, a quick Google search will solve that. He’s on the sex offender registry. Brock Turner will walk around with a scarlet “RAPIST” branded on his forehead for the rest of his life. That is all he will ever be. The other sex offenders in his court-mandated rehab program will recognize his face from the newspapers and whisper, “Well, at least I’m not that guy.” He’s banned from swimming, expelled from school, and the life he knew is rightfully ruined.
Though he won’t be sitting in a cell for the next 14 years, the public vilification will make him wish he were. Jail was just one of the many forms of punishment that he will face for the rest of his pathetic life. So while you’re outraged that Turner was only incarcerated for three months, remember that it’s more prison time than what 99.4 percent of what other rapists get. And maybe it’s time to get outraged about that, too.
While we’re on the subject of this case, let’s stop calling this woman a “victim.” She is a survivor. And surviving sexual violence is more than just living through the violence itself. It’s surviving the lingering trauma every day after. She fought like hell in court, was forced to relive the worst night of her life over and over again, all while being picked apart by a defense attorney whose only job was to make it look like she was asking for it. This woman is a warrior and she deserves to be treated as such.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.