The father of an ex-Stanford University swimmer who was sentenced to six months in jail last week for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman believes his son should have received probation because the 20-year-old has already suffered for “20 minutes of action.”
On Thursday, Brock Turner was given a six-month prison sentence for his sexual assault of a woman in January 2015 outside a fraternity party on the school’s Palo Alto campus.
“As it stands now, Brock’s life has been deeply altered forever by the events of Jan. 17th and 18th,” Dan Turner wrote in a reference letter posted to Twitter on Sunday by Michelle Dauber, a Stanford law professor and friend of the victim. “He will never be his happy go lucky self with that easy going personality and welcoming smile. His every waking minute is consumed with worry, anxiety, fear and depression. You can see this in his face, the way he walks, his weakened voice, his lack of appetite.”
Dan Turner argued that Brock’s loss of appetite and a swimming scholarship is punishment enough:
Brock always enjoyed certain types of food and is a very good cook himself. I was always excited to buy him a big ribeye steak to grill or to get his favorite snack for him. I had to make sure to hide some of my favorite pretzels or chips because I knew they wouldn’t be around long after Brock walked in from a long swim practice. Now he barely consumes any food and eats only to exist. These verdicts have broken and shattered him and our family in so many ways. His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life. The fact that he now has to register as a sexual offender for the rest of his life forever alters where he can live, visit, work, and how he will be able to interact with people and organizations. What I know as his father is that incarceration is not the appropriate punishment for Brock. He has no prior criminal history and has never been violent to anyone including his actions on the night of Jan 17th 2015. Brock can do so many positive things as a contributor to society and is totally committed to educating other college age students about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity. By having people like Brock educate others on college campuses is how society can begin to break the cycle of binge drinking and its unfortunate results. Probation is the best answer for Brock in this situation and allows him to give back to society in a net positive way.
Reaction to the father’s letter was swift, with many on Twitter condemning his argument as tone-deaf at best.
It's the utter lack of self awareness and context that makes Brock Turner's dad's statement so chilling. Purest dumb dad privilege
— John Hodgman (@hodgman) June 6, 2016
I understand that this father's pain must be excruciating and I sympathize. But this statement is itself an outrage. https://t.co/KR8Mq9jsHE
— Nick Davis (@NicksFlickPicks) June 5, 2016
RAPE CULTURE: Brock Turner's dad is sad he only got "20 minutes of action" & doesn't even like eating steaks anymore pic.twitter.com/eQswM8Lb11
— Lauren Duca (@laurenduca) June 5, 2016
Shameful. His son raped a woman. Rape IS violence not "20 minutes of action". https://t.co/ldM1rmz5Z2
— Brie Larson (@brielarson) June 5, 2016
Better ways to spend 20 mins:
– teach your son women are people
– teach your son rape is bad
– teach your son human decency#BrockTurner
— Amy The Great (@AmyJoRyan) June 6, 2016
Turner’s childhood friend, Leslie Rasmussen, also sent a letter to the court asking for leniency:
I don’t think it’s fair to base the fate of the next [10 plus] years of his life on the decision of a girl who doesn’t remember anything but the amount she drank to press charges against him. I am not blaming her directly for this, because that isn’t right. But where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn’t always because people are rapists.
“He was always the sweetest to everyone,” Rasumssen added. “The whole thing [is] a huge misunderstanding.”
At Turner’s sentencing, the victim, now 23, read a powerful, 7,200-word letter directly to her attacker.
“You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today,” she began.
More from her letter:
On January 17th, 2015, it was a quiet Saturday night at home. My dad made some dinner and I sat at the table with my younger sister who was visiting for the weekend. I was working full time and it was approaching my bed time. I planned to stay at home by myself, watch some TV and read, while she went to a party with her friends. Then, I decided it was my only night with her, I had nothing better to do, so why not, there’s a dumb party ten minutes from my house, I would go, dance like a fool, and embarrass my younger sister. On the way there, I joked that undergrad guys would have braces. My sister teased me for wearing a beige cardigan to a frat party like a librarian. I called myself “big mama”, because I knew I’d be the oldest one there. I made silly faces, let my guard down, and drank liquor too fast not factoring in that my tolerance had significantly lowered since college.
The next thing I remember I was in a gurney in a hallway. I had dried blood and bandages on the backs of my hands and elbow. I thought maybe I had fallen and was in an admin office on campus. I was very calm and wondering where my sister was. A deputy explained I had been assaulted. I still remained calm, assured he was speaking to the wrong person. I knew no one at this party. When I was finally allowed to use the restroom, I pulled down the hospital pants they had given me, went to pull down my underwear, and felt nothing. I still remember the feeling of my hands touching my skin and grabbing nothing. I looked down and there was nothing. The thin piece of fabric, the only thing between my vagina and anything else, was missing and everything inside me was silenced. I still don’t have words for that feeling.
The victim urged the judge, Aaron Persky, to consider the dangerous message a lenient sentence would send:
As a society, we cannot forgive everyone’s first sexual assault or digital rape. It doesn’t make sense. The seriousness of rape has to be communicated clearly, we should not create a culture that suggests we learn that rape is wrong through trial and error. The consequences of sexual assault needs to be severe enough that people feel enough fear to exercise good judgment even if they are drunk, severe enough to be preventative.
Brock Turner could have received up to 14 years in jail for his assault. But Persky, a Stanford alum, concluded that Turner’s young age and lack of criminal history warranted something much less “severe.”
“A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” Persky said at Turner’s sentencing on Thursday. “I think he will not be a danger to others.”
Please sign this ASAP Letter to Stanford University in Support of Survivor of Brock Turner, help her get counseling https://t.co/fQD8hXDbt0
— Michele Dauber (@mldauber) June 6, 2016
Dauber, in turn, helped launch a petition asking Stanford to publicly apologize to the victim and help pay for her therapy.
“The national spotlight is on this case, and it is on our university,” a letter attached to the petition reads. “Stanford needs to step up, take responsibility for the crime committed by its own student, recognize the pain and needs of the survivor, and realize that this is not an isolated incident.”
Late Monday, Stanford released a statement defending its handling of the Turner case:
Stanford University did everything within its power to assure that justice was served in this case, including an immediate police investigation and referral to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office for a successful prosecution.
Stanford urges its students to do the right thing and intervene and we are proud of our students for stopping this incident. Many other student witnesses cooperated in the investigation. Once Stanford learned the identity of the young woman involved, the university reached out confidentially to offer her support and to tell her the steps we were taking. In less than two weeks after the incident, Stanford had conducted an investigation and banned Turner from setting foot on campus — as a student or otherwise. This is the harshest sanction that a university can impose on a student.
There has been a significant amount of misinformation circulating about Stanford’s role. In this case, Stanford University, its students, its police and its staff members did everything they could. Stanford University takes the issue of sexual assault extremely seriously and has been a national leader in taking concrete steps to implement prevention programs, to train students on the importance of bystander intervention, to provide support to students who may experience sexual assault and to assure that cases are handled fairly and justly.
This was a horrible incident, and we understand the anger and deep emotion it has generated. There is still much work to be done, not just here, but everywhere, to create a culture that does not tolerate sexual violence in any form and a judicial system that deals appropriately with sexual assault cases.
Meanwhile, several efforts to recall Persky are under way.
“To sentence Turner to a short six months in jail for his blatant, disgusting actions is a horrifying example of how rape culture has continued to run rampant on college campuses across the country and is reinforced by our legal system,” Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, said in a statement announcing her group’s petition. “One in four women will be sexually assaulted while in college. With an epidemic of that proportion, survivors of sexual assault need judges that take these issues seriously.”
Curiously, both the Stanford University Department of Public Safety and the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department did not release Turner’s mug shot, as they usually do.
But after requests from several media outlets, including Yahoo News, the offices released a pair of booking photos late Monday: one from Stanford the night of the assault (below, left) and another from the sheriff’s department on the day he was formally charged.