Brock Turner is a rapist. It’s irrelevant that he was or is a ‘swim star’ at Stanford. It’s irrelevant that he was a decent student. He is guilty of 3 felonies: Intent to commit rape on an intoxicated/unconscious person, sexual penetration by a foreign object of an intoxicated person, sexual penetration by a foreign object of an unconscious person.
As everyone now knows, Judge Aaron Persky did not give him the sentence these 3 felonies deserved — 10 to 14 years in prison. He did not give him the sentence that a less privileged black or latino would have gotten. He did not give him the sentence that a poor white man with a public defender would have gotten. He have him 6 months; he’ll be out in 3. And his high-priced attorney is filing an appeal.
The phrase “rape culture” has been thrown around a lot lately. But I think there is a broader picture as well — we have a culture of dehumanization. Rape is a dehumanizing crime; violence, both verbal and physical, is dehumanizing; racism in any form is dehumanizing. Brock Turner’s father wrote in his weepy letter to the judge about poor Brock not being able to eat steak anymore and losing weight, with no mention ever of the woman who his son sexually assaulted behind a dumpster. If 2 students on bikes hadn’t stopped him, it’s anyone’s guess what else he would have done. Brock’s father referred to the entire nightmare as “20 minutes of action.” As if there was not another human being there, lying naked and unconscious on the filthy cement while his swim star son violated her. Judge Persky, in saying he didn’t want to ruin Brock Turner’s life, apparently forgot there was a victim whose life has been irreversibly damaged, whose life will never be the same. When you dehumanize people, you can do anything to them because, to you, they are disposable, inconvenient, objects to be tossed aside. Neither the judge nor anyone on Brock Turner’s defense team (and I’m including his father) seems to even remember the woman who was so brutally violated. But why would they — to them she’s just an inconvenience.
If Donald Trump had spoken out against Judge Persky instead of Judge Curiel, no one would be complaining.
Brock Turner has some charming friends too. His childhood friend Leslie Rasmussen also wrote a letter to the judge. Here is one excerpt: “Rape on campus isn’t always because people are rapists. Brock used to be a swim star and now it’s like he is the face of rape on campuses. It’s such a false way to put it.”
No sweetheart, that’s how you put it when you value another human life, when you value someone’s dignity and right to be safe, even if they’ve had too much to drink. Please God, don’t let any of Brock Turner’s other friends write letters — this absence of humanity is starting to look like a virus.
20 minutes of violence — and we don’t really know if that’s all it was — can change a life forever. The scars, the wounds, the fear, the anger will never entirely go away. They settle beneath the skin and curl up inside the heart. They are there when you go to the grocery store, when you meet a new person, when you want desperately to trust someone but don’t know if you’ll ever be able to again. They stretch out beside you at night and whisper in your ear at dawn.
For anyone who hasn’t read the victim’s letter to her attacker — the rapist Brock Turner — take a few minutes to read it. She is the heart of this awful story. She is who needs to be remembered, wept over, and respected for her courage. In part she wrote, “If you think I was spared, came out unscathed, that today I ride off into the sunset while you suffer the greatest blow, you are mistaken…Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen. I carry it with me.”