As of now, everyone has heard about the infamous Stanford Rape Case. This information has been on every broadcast station, newspaper outlet and social media medium.
On June 2, 2016 Judge Persky announced that Brock Turner would only receive six months in jail with probation after being convicted on three felony accounts – assault with intent to rape an intoxicated women, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.
Persky’s decision has been under major scrutiny because his concern that “prison would have a severe impact on Turner”, therefore the punishment wasn’t as harsh as the prosecutor asked for, which was six years in prison.
Many news outlets describe Turner as an “All American swimmer”, “Olympic hopeful”, “Ex-Stanford swimmer”, etc. before they mentioned that he was charged with three felonies including intent to rape. The Washington Post played into this when their article called Turner “All-American swimmer guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman on Stanford campus.”
Turner is an affluent white male attending a prestigious academic institution. Although anyone charged with a crime should be treated fairly and impartially until a decision is made to their guilt or innocence, he appears to have been treated different than others accused of similar crimes perhaps because of race or socioeconomic class. To go along with the different headlines and apparent treatment of the accused, Turner’s mug shot took the police eight months to release. Prior to its release, news outlets used a smiling photo of Turner. This may seem like just a coincidence, but you don’t have to look very deep to see a pattern of differential treatment based on race and social class.
While everyone deserves their day in court, once convicted we need to call it what it is. Why does the news sill have this racial barrier when it comes to headlines and producing news? We need to start teaching journalism students to consider their own lenses and possible bias with their news reporting and hold news writers and reporters accountable for their blatant racism, sexism, classism, etc.
This case is a set back from the progressive movement our communities are making to end rape and put rapist in prison. This six-month sentence is a “slap on the wrist” for Turner and a pathetic slap in the face to the rest of us who are fighting to change a culture and environment that continues to allow this behavior.
This case could have been a monumental push to prove that rapist can go to prison for their crimes; that they can be caught, tried and convicted. The judge had the power to prosecute Turner for the maximum of 14 years in prison but he chose to dramatically decrease the severity of the punishment, disrespecting women and all sexual assault survivors, especially the victim of this particular crime.
In a letter written by the victim to Turner, she brings to light how the defendants lawyer asked discouraging, inappropriate and degrading questions about what she wore, how she presented herself to Turner, how much she drank, why she drank that much, etc. These questions have no bearing on what Turner did. The consequences of a person drinking may mean they wake up with a hangover but it gives no one the right to sexual assault them. Turner needs to take responsibility for his behavior. The victims clothing or amount of alcohol consumption does not condone or excuse his predatory behavior.
Women are not objects and what we chose to wear or how much we drink does not make us responsible for others behaviors. We all need to be responsible for our own behavior. In many ways this does a disservice to men, assuming that they are animals who are unable to control themselves and cannot be responsible for their own choices and behavior.
This line of thinking goes along with middle schools and high schools having a dress code for girls because they are a distraction in the classroom. Shouldn’t we expect more of this age group and make it clear that their behavior is their own responsibility? It is actions and rules like these that continue to perpetuate the sexualizing and objectifying of women as the norm.
Turner’s father, Dan A. Turner wrote a letter to the judge about his son that was released to the public. In his letter he described how his son can’t eat steak anymore and his life is over for “20 minutes of action”. For him to downplay the severity of his son’s actions is disgusting, pathetic and ignorant. Not wanting to believe that your son could commit this crime is understandable but to describe the victim as “20 minutes of action” is disrespectful.
That phrase, “20 minutes of action” gives the notion that what Turner did for 20 minutes should not be punishable; that a rapist’s life should not be affected for something that lasted for only 20 minutes. The agonizing 20 minutes for the victim isn’t even considered. This attitude diminishes the impact Turner had on the victim and other perpetrations on their victims. We need to change the way we talk about rape. It is a serious offense and we need to quit treating it as something that just happens.
This is not just a conversation to be carried by women where we focus on how to keep them from being raped. We also need to talk with everyone about not raping and being responsible for themselves and their own behavior. If we want to change the current culture that allows this to happen we need to all be a part of the conversation.
This situation and all the others ones we have been hearing about, particularly on college campuses makes me furious. Most of us are good people who wouldn’t rape or commit a heinous crime like this but there are predators and opportunists who will. Let’s focus on what we can do.
In the news the focus on the disappointing verdict has been overshadowed in many ways by a new focus on the two young men riding by on their bikes that did do something to help. This story could have had an even more devastating end if they wouldn’t have stepped in. Most of us won’t rape but would we step in and check in and be the active and engaged bystanders that these two men were? These two men made a quick assessment of the situation and chose to act.
We all need to become better bystanders like the two guys on their bicycles. Pretending you didn’t see someone drug a drink or pull an intoxicated person up the steps into a bedroom is only allowing the problem to continue. Being aware of your surroundings, recognizing signs and doing something is imperative. Often we think that if we don’t do something we are remaining neutral but the reality is that doing something and doing nothing are both choices and both have consequence. These men riding by chose to do something. What would have happened if they chose to do nothing…
So do you want to be the person who will “Do Something”? Join the Kent State Green Dot movement. We may not be able to change the situation in this particular case but we can make a difference moving forward. For more information about getting involved with Green Dot go to www.kent.edu/greendot. To learn more about this case and see the full letter written by the victim (referenced above) go to BuzzFeed’s website.
Written by: Samantha Meisenburg, Public Relations major and Women’s Center Intern Summer ’16.