A danger to others.

This is Brock. He’s eighteen in this photo.

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He’s a Stanford University student and an all-star athlete, a once-promising Olympic hopeful.

This is CJ. He’s sixteen in this photo.

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CJ grew up in Louisiana and has a long history of mental illness. He’s been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and was prescribed a long list of medications including Wellbutrin, Abilify, Seroquell, and Hydroxyzine.

Both Brock and CJ are convicted rapists.

What CJ did was horrifying: he’s been convicted of the rape and assault of an eighty-one year old neighbor. The brief from his trial is difficult and shocking to read; the elderly woman was treated in the ICU for fractures, bruises, and trauma consistent with graphic sexual assault.

CJ’s father stated to the local paper that “under normal circumstances,” he didn’t believe that he would commit a crime so graphic and heinous, but “without his medication, anything is possible.” CJ was found mentally fit to stand trial, tried as an adult in 2009, and sentenced to a lifetime of hard labor without the possibility of parole.

What Brock did was horrifying: he’s been convicted of raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, penetrating her with foreign objects as well as his fingers and penis. He attempted to flee the scene when he was discovered by two grad students, who held him captive until the police arrived. The coverage from the newspapers is difficult and shocking to read: the victim has issued a statement that she read in court, and it is the most important piece of writing I have read in a very, very long time. 

Brock’s father has also spoken to the press, arguing that Brock should not have to pay a steep price for “20 minutes of action” out of his 20 years of life. (Not “rape,” please note. “Action.” Paying a steep price for “20 minutes of rape” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.)

Brock has been sentenced to six months in county jail. He will likely only serve three.

From The Guardian: 

The judge, Aaron Perksy, cited Turner’s age and lack of criminal history as factors in his decision, saying, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him … I think he will not be a danger to others.”

I think he will not be a danger to others. 

I think he will not be a danger to others. I think he will not be a danger to others. I think he will not be a danger to others. 

I suppose, then, that we should ignore the victim. That if he will not be a danger to others, it is acceptable that he was only a danger to her.

I suppose, then, that we should continue to show Brock Turner’s yearbook photo, rather than his mug shot, in the media. That we perceive him first and foremost as an “all-American college athlete” rather than “convicted rapist.” I suppose that will not be a danger to others. Especially not when paired with the evidence suggesting that there is staggering racial disparity in the justice system, particularly when applied to juveniles of color. 

I think that he will not be a danger to others. 

I think that the vast majority of rapes go unreported. I think that only two percent of rapists will serve time. 

I think that there are 400,000 untested rape kits gathering dust on the shelves in the United States while rapists go free. 

I think those things because there is hard evidence to back those claims up, and I think that those facts are a hard, cold, DANGER. This is dangerous to others. This is dangerous to me. This is dangerous to the one-in-five women who will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and the four-in-five who will still experience the effects of living in a culture that diminishes the horror of rape, a system in which the victim is inherently mistrusted.

I think it is dangerous that cops do not believe rape victims. Which, for the record, they frequently do not. I think that every single college administrator, judicial system worker, police officer, and human should read this and understand:

In the past decade, neurobiology has evolved to explain why victims respond in ways that make it seem like they could be lying, even when they’re not. Using imaging technology, scientists can identify which parts of the brain are activated when a person contemplates a traumatic memory such as sexual assault. The brain’s prefrontal cortex—which is key to decision-making and memory—often becomes temporarily impaired. The amygdala, known to encode emotional experiences, begins to dominate, triggering the release of stress hormones and helping to record particular fragments of sensory information. Victims can also experience tonic immobility—a sensation of being frozen in place—or a dissociative state. These types of withdrawal result from extreme fear yet often make it appear as if the victim did not resist the assault.

This is why, experts say, sexual assault victims often can’t give a linear account of an attack and instead focus on visceral sensory details like the smell of cologne or the sound of voices in the hallway.

I think that Brock will not be a danger to others because he will educate college students about the “dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.”

From Brock’s victim’s statement, which I again encourage you to read in full:

Alcohol is not an excuse. Is it a factor? Yes. But alcohol was not the one who stripped me, fingered me, had my head dragging against the ground, with me almost fully naked. Having too much to drink was an amateur mistake that I admit to, but it is not criminal. Everyone in this room has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much, or knows someone close to them who has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much. Regretting drinking is not the same as regretting sexual assault. We were both drunk, the difference is I did not take off your pants and underwear, touch you inappropriately, and run away. That’s the difference.

I think that he will not be a danger to others. 

The Brock Turner case is inherently dangerous to others. To us all. For teaching us that the trauma of being raped behind a dumpster is less important than the trauma of losing a swimming scholarship to Stanford.

For showing us that all the education in the world has not taught this young man, or so many others, the simple lesson that no one’s body belongs to you except your own.

Perhaps Judge Persky is right on one count: I don’t think that a long sentence in state prison will teach him how to respect women, to understand the value of consent, to learn that he is not entitled to shove himself into a woman’s body who has not explicitly invited him in. Prison doesn’t work, and I’m not sure that a lengthy stint in state lockup, even if he was only allowed to read the complete works of Audre Lorde and bell hooks, would do much good either.

But even if the system is fucked, can’t we at least pretend that justice for all is a thing? Because Brock Turner is emblematic of justice for all but the wealthy, the white, the elite, and the powerful. 

I don’t know how I would have sentenced Brock Turner. But to slap him on the wrist is provoking immense outrage, none of which will change the fact that he raped a young woman. A young woman’s life is ruined. Brock Turner and his father don’t believe that he’s done anything wrong.

He’s not alone in thinking this way. A staggering percentage of young men don’t actually believe or understand that rape is rape.

And perhaps that is the biggest tragedy of all. That we don’t educate our children about consent. That we don’t believe our victims when they report their rapes. That we subject our victims to barrages of questions, interrogate and question their motives, reopen the wounds in the court of public opinion. And that even when our rapists are caught in the act, thrusting into a motionless woman behind a dumpster — even when rape is rape is rape is rape is rape, cannot be anything other but rape, caught-in-the-act unequivocal rape rape rape rape, that was a rape and will always be a rape — even then, in the case of the wealthy, we treat the rapist as white, as an athlete, as “once-promising,” as cautionary tale, as a human, as Brock… before we treat him as a rapist. That is the power of privilege. That is the danger of it, too.

That is a danger to others, Judge Persky.

That is a danger to all of us.

** To read the victim’s statement in full, please click here.** 

 

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31 thoughts on “A danger to others.

  1. I just happened to read the victim’s statement before I clicked on this and it was heart-wrenching and haunting and important. And I’m afraid it won’t do a damned thing to change the way we continue to blame the victim, because the whole fucking system is set up to protect the privileged white male. And it’s roots are so deep and so vast I don’t even know where to begin to address it. Mandatory, punitive sentencing for anyone convicted of sexual assault, domestic violence or rape would be a small start.

  2. Such a sad case, I’ve been following it today with utter horror. His Fathers words shook me to the core. ’20 minutes of action’ – no RAPE. Your son chose to attack/sexually assault an unconscious, vulnerable female, instead of being a decent human being and calling for help. Absolutely disgusting and the judge certainly needs to be held accountable for his clear failings in this case. Sending all of my love to the brave victim, her words have played on my mind in a loop this evening.

  3. I am imagining having to perhaps sit with this person in a classroom or in an office, knowing that if he decides to get another degree or win a another swimming contest, I can just shrug and be there as his prize. Me, or other co-workers, classmates, strangers on the street.
    I hate that we cradle this belief that if you do 1 thing right, you are suddenly entitled to making mistakes and behaving however you please. Rape is ok, as long as you are a good student?
    This entire story sickens me, and reminds me why I am so paranoid when I walk down the street or attend any event.

  4. I heard about this case this morning and I’ve been in disbelief that this is actually happening. I can’t believe the rapist’s attitude, as well as that of his father’s. Shame on a system that lets them get away with something like this, I can’t begin to imagine what the victim must be going through. (By the way, there’s a petition to get the judge off the stand, I’d urge anyone to sign it asap)

  5. i read the victims statement prior to clicking on your email … i cried when i read it and felt so sad. think of all SHE could have been if he hadn’t destroyed her life. its no wonder he is the way he is when his father can make such careless comments

  6. If you really want to help, here’s how:
    FILE A COMPLAINT AGAINST THE JUDGE
    Who gave the lenient sentence to
    Brock Turner
    1.FILL IN YOUR INFORMATION
    2.PRINT
    3.MAIL

    you can print it here http://cjp.ca.gov/…/appendix/complaintform%20fillable.pdf

    Information needed:
    Attorney’s Name: N/A
    Attorney’s Phone Number: N/A
    Court: Superior
    County: Santa Clara
    Name of case and case number: THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA vs. BROCK ALLEN TURNER, Case no. B1577162
    Please specify what action or behavior of the judge, court commissioner or referee is the basis of your complaint. Provide relevant dates and the names of others present.: Bias/appearance of bias toward a particular class. Sentencing of Brock Allen Turner to an unusually lenient 6 months in jail for 3 sexual assault convictions. The judge is an alumni of Turner’s alma mater (was captain of the lacrosse team) and has shown previous bias towards student athletes. Present: Judge Aaron Persky, District Attorney Jeff Rosen, Defense Attorney Mike Armstrong, Brock Allen Turner, Jane Doe, others.

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  8. So much yes. This whole trial, from the rape itself to the media coverage, has made me so angry. Thank you for articulating that anger here.

  9. Absolutely horrified and disgusted by this! It’s terrifying as a women to know that someone who violated a women’s body can just get slapped on the wrist. The father and this boy terrify and disgust me. So if this judge was dragged behind a garbage can and raped my a man…..would he still think 6 months is fair? Sickening.

  10. I am floored and heartbroken. The way we can raise this issue is talking about it and sharing the shattering verdict as you have done. Thank you. I have shared on my facebook, the world has to read this. I hope Broke rots as his actions from that night rot his mind and body.

  11. This whole thing is such a mess. I’m so glad the victim is strong enough to share her story with us and really fucking angry that she’s in a position to have to do so.

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  13. I wasn’t aware of this story until I read your post. Between this and all that’s been going on at my alma mater, Baylor University, I am utterly ashamed for my gender. I’ll definitely get on board with the petition against this sorry excuse for a judge, let alone, a man. This whole screwed up system of protecting the star athlete MUST. CHANGE. NOW.

  14. Thank you for bringing this to my attention, otherwise I wouldn’t have known- since I try not to read the news- I want to applaud the victim for such a detailed and well thought out statement to help everyone understand, I want to applaud the two men that put a stop to the assault, and I want to acknowledge the quick actions of the college that banned the perpetrator from ever stepping foot on the college grounds and revoking his scholarship – but I think that she is a victim of a date-rape drug, it seems her forgetting everything is more than just too much too drink to me – I hope that the college can investigate this incident further- someone put that drug in her drink IMO-
    I am a recent widow and find myself fearful of so much, I have just drawn my own two bicycles- and put the drawing on my wall too – to remind myself that there are still GOOD people in the world. Thank you again for the post.
    ps- I signed the petition to remove the judge- wonder who he abused in the past…..

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  17. And then there is India where rapes happen in every nook and corner of the cities in every state. Where victims are mentally harassed for inviting rapes upon them. We do not need effective safety and right education against such crimes in India or USA but everywhere in the world. Because a NO always means refusal. No matter sober or drunk.

  18. Hm, given his father’s response I wonder where he might get it… This stuff is learned people… when will we all wake up and make sure we HAVE talks with our children about the ‘hard’ stuff.

  19. Kicking myself for not getting on here and reading this in full until now. I’m terrified that this is just normal. I want someone to tell me that this isn’t racist or sexist. It’s gross that people like him get off with no real punishment for their actions.

  20. Sick…sick…sickly twisted people and very unfair..often corrupt judicial system…heinous crime such as that certainly watrent alot of proson time..i have often seen sex offenders get little time..especially with kids and elderly…because they often can be easily discredited..mainly due to the trauma and their age..

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