Open Letter to Brock Turner

Open Letter to Brock Turner,

Now that social media has judged you much more harshly than the all too lenient court, here are some suggestions for restitution and public service.

Given your very short sentence
for multiple counts of sexual assault on an unconscious woman last January on the Stanford campus, you have no time to lose making amends. No longer the "happy-go-lucky" son, whom your father mourns, and who thought too little about his responsibility for his actions, you are now free to own your deeds and address the public about the scourge of sexual assault on campus.

Take these very few months in your jail cell to learn about sexual assault. Conduct research as you would have done as a Stanford University student. Sift through scholarly and news articles, seek out insights from experts and victims, study your own victim's eloquent statement closely, and prepare for a life of public engagement. Real engagement about the real reason you are in jail: You enacted violence upon another person, despite the fact you knew better. You had undergone anti-sexual assault training when you arrived on the Stanford campus, and enjoyed every privilege as an elite college athlete with abundant resources. Now it is time to take these lessons seriously and educate others.

Learn the profound wrong of your father's version of the events. He heaps blame on the victim when he suggests that you should speak publically about "alcohol" and "promiscuity." Understand alcohol and sexual mores do not cause assault. Recognize your own decisions and understand why you were wrong. Don't interrogate the victim.

Your education will be painful. You will recoil at your father's ugly description of your assault as merely "20 minutes of action." Your father has tried to explain his words, but you need to understand why he misspoke and what about your actions he has condoned. You may love him, but don't think like him, don't talk like him, don't act like him. Teach your father about sexual assault, and learn what real action could mean: accepting justice for your decisions.

Here are 10 suggestions to help you prepare to embrace your brief sentence and life as a sex offender.

1. Apologize for the harm you caused.

2. Denounce sexual assault in all of its forms.

3. Make restitution for your harm by working in women's shelters.

4. Found an organization that helps educate the public about sexual assault.

5. Talk about sexual assault to students around the world.

6. Ask every community to step up and discuss sexual assault, especially your fraternity brothers.

7. Address the problem of sexual assault in the athletics community.

8. Invite the recently exonerated Brian Banks to join you in your efforts at educating the public about sexual assault, race and privilege.

9. Invite experts to appear with you in public to condemn sexual assault.

10. Quote your victim's words that condemn you and approve them. In public.

In addition to these 10 steps, take 10 more of your own positive actions forward. Use your name and notoriety to build safer campuses. Become a public figure for the good.

You killed your own future as an Olympian. Pick up the pieces and find a new path. Now is the time to coach and teach a new generation of champions against sexual assault. You can help make college better for everyone and change the face of swimming as well. Help your beloved sport become more inclusive and diverse for people of all backgrounds. Go to sleep in your jail cell and dream of a better world, where young people of every race and gender can swim winning times, and breathe easy knowing they are safe, and no one will touch their bodies without consent.

Drop a line if you are in need of resources. I'm happy to tell you where to start. Please hurry and get on the job. You have no time to lose.


Dr. Ruth A. Starkman


Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.