To Brock Turner's Childhood Friend, Leslie Rasmussen

Dear Leslie,

Yesterday, I read your letter (published in The Cut) addressed to Judge Aaron Persky in which you defended your childhood friend Brock Turner for raping an intoxicated girl on campus.

I couldn’t stop thinking about what you wrote and tried to look at this situation from your perspective. I pictured my best friend being in Brock Turner’s place and for a moment, I understood your stance – my first instinct would be to defend him too. But that would just be my first instinct, a reflex action, to protect someone I love. I would probably always love my best friend unconditionally but if he ever decided to rape someone, I would never ever stand by him or defend him. I would never call it a misunderstanding. I would never deny that he isn’t a rapist simply because he is my best friend.

I think about my 10 closest friends. I think about the friends who are like my brothers, the friends I feel most comfortable with, the friends who I would trust with anything and everything, the friends who I don’t believe would harm anyone no matter what happens. I think about my childhood friends. I think about that guy from high school who was always sweet and charming just like you said Brock was. I think about my brother who is one of the dearest people to me in the world.  

Nope, I still wouldn’t deny that any of these people are rapists if they rape someone, simply because of my relationship with them.

I understand the sadness and shock you feel at finding out that your childhood friend is involved in such a situation. But the reason he is in such a situation today is because of his own actions; he raped a woman and no one else is responsible for that.

Just because you never caught him harassing anyone, verbally or physically, does not mean that he did not rape this woman. Just because he dated your friend in high school does not mean that he did not rape this woman. Just because you thought he would swim in the Olympics one day does not mean he did not rape this woman. Your friendship with him does not mean he did not rape this woman.

In fact, your friendship with him has no connection to this case whatsoever. You said, “I’ve thought about it, and from different angles. I tried to accept that maybe he did try to harm this girl, but I just couldn’t imagine that was the case.” Well, I regret to tell you that you being unable to imagine anything does not justify what he did or clear his records. It just doesn’t. You saying “there is no way Brock went out that night with rape on his mind” does not mean anything. You are no one to say what Brock had on his mind, no matter how close you are to him. You said that after the investigation, Brock should have been found innocent. Again, you are no one to decide what should have happened.

You claiming that Brock is not a monster and saying that you have known him longer than everyone involved in the case means nothing. Just because you have known him since you were children does not mean that he is innocent. It is frustrating to have to explain this to a grown woman like yourself. The letter you wrote looked like it’s coming from the child who went to school with Brock years ago. Actually, even children wouldn’t make such a stupid, illogical argument.

You said rape on campus isn’t always because people are rapists. I don’t know how to begin to tell you how many things are wrong with that statement. Rape is always because people are rapists. Anyone who rapes is a rapist. What you’re saying is that university students can rape someone and should not be labeled rapists. They should instead be called "idiot boys and girls having too much to drink" and should be allowed to get away with it. I can’t think of a more baseless argument. Rape is rape. Intoxication isn’t an excuse. Going to a "party school" isn’t an excuse. Drinking is not an excuse.

Your letter is the perfect example of victim blaming. You’re implying that everything that happened to this woman is her fault because she was drunk. What else would you and other people with your mentality be willing to excuse, simply because the victim (or the criminal) was drunk? If this drunk woman was robbed, would you blame her? No, you wouldn’t. If this drunk woman was murdered, would you blame her? I don’t think so. If Brock broke into a house while he was intoxicated or decided to wear a suicide jacket and bomb a crowded place while he was drunk, would you still be so willing to excuse him? Definitely not.

So why do you draw the line at rape?

Brock was intoxicated and apparently didn’t know any better and shouldn’t be blamed for the decision he made (i.e. the decision to rape an almost unconscious woman) yet he had the sense to run away when someone happened to pass by and see them (why, by the way, do you think he tried to get away if he wasn’t doing anything wrong?). This woman might have been foolish to drink too much but she does not deserve to be raped just because she drank. She does not deserve the consequences she has to face because of his actions. He, on the other hand, completely deserves the consequences he has to face because of his actions.

You seem like such an empathetic person with your ability to see the good side of rapists; maybe if you try to look at this situation from that woman’s perspective, you would be able to empathize with the person you should be empathizing with. Yes, your friend’s life is forever changed because of his actions and that is difficult for you to comprehend. But this woman’s life is forever changed too because of someone else’s actions. You so casually said that rape is a sensitive topic for people, especially women. Go talk to someone who has actually been raped and – because of your compassion and empathy– you might actually understand why this topic is a sensitive one.

You said this is different from a woman being kidnapped while walking in a parking lot and then being raped. I don’t even know what you were trying to say when you made that statement. This is exactly the same thing because in both these cases, the woman didn’t consent. Assuming, like you and Brock like to believe, that she did initially consent while they were at the party, that consent ends after you take into account the fact that she was intoxicated. That is the meaning of consent. Consent is between two mentally stable adults who are both in control of their actions. If, in the middle, one of them falls asleep or faints or gets distracted or changes their mind, their consent ends then and there. And everything that happens after that is forced. Misinformed people like you are the reason why there are so many myths surrounding rape. People think rape can only be done by some lone stranger (in a dark empty area like a parking lot) who has a history of psychotic behavior and creepy stalker-like tendencies, when in reality the majority of rape cases involve someone who the victim knows and trusts (spouse, friend, family member) and majority of rapists are smart, accomplished, well respected people like Brock.

So no, your friend Brock was not an innocent drunk kid who deserves to be excused for raping someone so he can go on to become the swimming champion that he was born to be. He remembered what he did and admitted to it, except he doesn’t think it should be labeled rape. Two witnesses saw what he was doing to the woman and had to physically restrain him until the police arrived. A jury of 12 decided to convict him.

So you are no one to claim that Brock is innocent just because you find him sweet, charming, respectful or whatever else – just because he is your friend. You just have to accept the fact that your friend is a rapist despite his smile and despite that adorable picture of him that you sent to the judge. I’m sure you wouldn’t be willing to excuse Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Matthew Emmanuel Macon for their crimes, just because of their smiles. You want Brock excused only because he is white and privileged with a high social standing (apart from the fact that he is your friend which means he is innocent by default).

Also, you should google the meaning of political correctness. That part of your letter bothered me the most.  

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