The Brock Turner sexual assault case and recent conviction has reignited the discussion about campus drinking, consent, and what makes a punishment fair. His father’s response in this case is outrageous, and provides an insight into the family life that bred a man capable of sexually assaulting a passed out, vulnerable girl instead of protecting her or calling for help.
In case you’re not familiar with the details of what happened, here’s a quick rundown. On the night of January 17, 2015, there was a party at Stanford University. Two grad students from Sweden discovered Brock Turner on top of an unconscious, partially undressed woman, behind a dumpster. Turner attempted to flee and was restrained by Peter Jonsson and Carl Arndt. He was arrested soon after the encounter. The woman was taken to the hospital, where she later woke up hours later with no memory of the assault, a blood alcohol “three times the legal limit,” and internal abrasions, a head injury, and lacerations from where her nude body was rubbed on the ground.
The case has already been to court, and “The Ohio native was convicted of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.”
Turning a Rapist Into a Victim
It’s become normal after a rape or sexual assault to focus with laserlike intensity on the victim. Lawyers demanded to know what she was wearing, what did she say, is she absolutely certain she didn’t hint that she wanted it? “Emily Doe” is how the young victim in this case is being identified to protect her identity, and she was asked all of these questions. She’s written a heartbreaking letter about this and the aftermath of the attack—an attack she can’t even remember because it happened while she was so incapacitated that she has no memory of the events, only the horror of waking up injured in the hospital.
But I’m not going to focus on Emily. Her letter is not the only one that has been released in this case. Brock’s father, Dan, released a letter that is equally heartbreaking, but for truly divergent reasons.
No one wants to imagine his daughter (or son) being raped, and no one wants his son to grow up to be a rapist. When a grown child commits a crime and is convicted of that crime, families have choices. Ignoring, minimizing, and reducing the heinous nature of your child’s actions shouldn’t be one of them. Opting for that route doesn’t make you a good parent after the fact.
The letter is available, in full, here. This letter is not an apology to the victim. It is not the words of a man disgusted by the actions of his son and seeking explain that he didn’t raise his child to rape. Instead, it’s a series of excuses that shows how this father totally lacks a moral compass. His child isn’t the victim here, but you wouldn’t know that from his words and perceptions.
Sir, There Is Not Excuse For This
Dan Turner recounts his son, as a small boy, being dedicated to practicing spelling words. He highlights his athletic prowess. He goes on to explain how gifted his son is at academics and swimming, what an honor it was to be accepted to Stanford, especially with an athletic scholarship, and how high his GPA was.
Then the excuses start. Brock was homesick. Other swimmers were part of the party culture, and he just wanted to fit in. He’s from the Midwest, and this was awful far from home. “He needed the support structure of being closer to family and friends.”
He closes with this paragraph about how this has all come tumbling down on Brock.
“That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20-plus years of life,” Dan writes. No mention of the steep price Emily Doe will pay. To Turner, that woman is still not real. She’s a non-issue in this to him, because she doesn’t matter. The type of man that can dismiss the attempted rape and sexual assault of an unconscious human being as “20 minutes of action” isn’t the type of man to address the true violence and degradation of rape and sexual assault. What may have been a brief moment for Brock was something that will live with Emily Doe forever.
Turner mentions that his son is “totally committed to educating other college age students about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.” Neither Brock nor his father are taking responsibility for what happened that night. It wasn’t sexual promiscuity. It was a violent attack on a vulnerable woman. Calling this sexual promiscuity is dishonest and disingenuous.
If Brock Turner didn’t want “20 minutes of action” to define his life, he shouldn’t have stripped the underwear off a woman who couldn’t stand. He would’ve helped her find the sister she went to the party with. If he was sorry, his focus wouldn’t be on bemoaning that he won’t be in the Olympics now, and that he has to register as a sex offender. As Emily Doe wrote, “Ruin a life, one life, yours, you forgot about mine. Let me rephrase for you, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin two lives. You and me. You are the cause, I am the effect.”
Don’t Forget the Real Victim
The sentence handed down for Brock Turner is also receiving significant outcry. “Prosecutors wanted the judge to sentence Turner to six years in a California prison, according to the Mercury News. Instead, Turner will reportedly serve only half of his six-month sentence — roughly three months, on the assumption of good behavior — in the county jail, as Judge Aaron Persky said a harsher sentence would ‘have a severe impact on him,’ a claim that has since drawn the ire of Santa Clara County district attorney Jeff Rosen, who told the Guardian ‘the punishment does not fit the crime.’” There is now a petition to recall the judge, who is a former Stanford athlete himself.
Everyone is focused on the way that night has changed the course of Turner’s life and talking about him. He was such a good kid. A promising athlete. A great student, kind, a good cook. A harsh sentence would ruin his life.
Yes, Brock has faced a tragedy. It wasn’t a dumb mistake. It was intentional, violent, brutal; and he ran from it in an attempt to not be caught. This was not the work of a good and kind kid. The truth is, Brock is the one who ruined his life. He did this. And with the destruction of his life came a tragedy in Emily Doe’s.