For all the commentary about sexual assault on college campuses and instruction on how to avoid becoming a victim, there is one undeniable cause of rape: rapists.
It’s not alcohol. It’s not clothing. It’s not poor upbringings or poor grades. Rapists cause rape.
But that simple fact seems to have been lost on a Santa Clara County judge who missed an opportunity last week to make a strong statement about the gravity of the crime while sentencing a Stanford University swimmer convicted of sexually assaulting an inebriated woman on campus.
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky had the option of giving 20-year-old Brock Turner, a three-time All-American high school swimmer who at one time aspired to be in the Olympics, up to 14 years in prison. Prosecutors recommended six years. Instead, Persky spared Turner any prison time, directing him instead to spend six months in county jail and three years on probation. The sentence triggered a national uproar, with good reason.
In justifying the light sentence, the judge pointed to the many character references sent in by Turner’s friends and members of his family. He also noted Turner’s lack of criminal history. “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” Persky said.
If only Persky was more concerned about the impact on the victim, who was unconscious as she was being assaulted behind a dumpster following a fraternity party in January 2015. It’s not that the judge didn’t have a chance to hear from the victim. Just moments before the sentencing, the 23-year-old woman, identified in as Emily Doe, offered a long impassioned statement in which she explained what she remembered the moments before and after she woke up in the hospital and discovered what had happened to her. She didn’t want her body anymore, she told the court.
“I was terrified of it, I didn’t know what had been in it, if it had been contaminated, who had touched it,” she said. “I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else.”
Instead, by handing down a sentence more fitting of a bicycle thief, the judge, too, treated the victim like a piece of clothing.
Worse, he appeared to have been influenced by the Turner’s father who, by virtue of his comments in defense of his son, seems to have bought into the notion that rape is merely an unfortunate byproduct of alcohol, hormones and youthful indiscretions.
“His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve,” Dan A. Turner said in arguing that his son should receive no jail time. “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”
Twenty minutes of action?
It’s worth remembering that the victim in this case did not know the man who attacked her and, if not for the courageous response of two Swedish graduate students who saw the assault occurring and were able to detain Turner until police arrived, may never have been able to identify her assailant.
The judge may be right that Turner has learned his lesson and “will not be a danger to others.” But light sentences like this one that treat rape as “action” certainly are.
Originally posted by The Press Democrat
By The Editorial Board
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