Teach char­ac­ter

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

A Santa Clara (Calif.) County Su­pe­rior Court judge handed down a sen­tence ear­lier this month that has us shak­ing our heads at the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

The case against Stan­ford Univer­sity stu­dent Brock Turner seemed air­tight. Two wit­nesses stum­bled across him sex­u­ally as­sault­ing a young woman be­hind a frat house Dump­ster and tack­led him as he tried to run away. The rape tests con­ducted on his vic­tim, whose blood al­co­hol con­tent was nearly three times the le­gal limit, proved the as­sault. She was found un­con­scious, pants-less from the as­sault with her bra re­moved.

What more could a jury pos­si­bly want in find­ing a con­vic­tion for such a hor­ren­dous case? This was about as far away from the “he said, she said” dilem­mas plagu­ing many of our na­tion’s col­lege cam­puses as pos­si­ble.

And a jury agreed, find­ing the 20-year-old col­lege fresh­man guilty on all three felonies that he stood ac­cused. For those who ad­vo­cate on be­half of sex­ual as­sault vic­tims, it seemed the Turner case was des­tined to be a shin­ing ex­am­ple of jus­tice in a dif­fi­cult topic grow­ing worse by the year.

But then Santa Clara County Su­pe­rior Court Judge Aaron Per­sky im­posed his sen­tence: six months of in­car­cer­a­tion in the county jail fol­lowed by three years of pro­ba­tion and a life­time reg­is­tra­tion on the sex of­fender list. With good be­hav­ior, Turner will be re­leased after three months be­hind bars. It was an out­ra­geous ab­di­ca­tion of jus­tice in Amer­ica.

The max­i­mum penalty that Per­sky could have is­sued un­der the charges was 14 years in prison, and the county’s pros­e­cu­tor was seek­ing six years of ac­tive in­car­cer­a­tion given Turner’s oth­er­wise clean record and other fac­tors.

But Per­sky con­cluded that a lengthy prison sen­tence would “have a se­vere im­pact” on Turner, and de­cided to be far more le­nient. Crit­ics have be­gun a pe­ti­tion against the judge, say­ing his sen­tence smacks of “priv­i­lege” and fa­voritism, as Per­sky too was a Stan­ford stu­dent ath­lete and even helped coach the univer­sity’s lacrosse team after grad­u­at­ing.

Mean­while, Dan Turner has also been lam­basted in so­cial me­dia and by the press after he sub­mit­ted a let­ter to the court re­quest­ing le­niency for his son. Dan Turner’s let­ter praised his son’s aca­demic and ath­letic gifts and blamed the crimes for which his son was found guilty as “20 min­utes of ac­tion out of his 20 plus years of life.” He laments the ef­fect that in­car­cer­a­tion and a sex of­fender sta­tus will have on his son, but never ad­dresses the un­speak­able pain — phys­i­cal, men­tal and emo­tional — that his son im­posed upon his vic­tim.

To this day, Turner has not ad­mit­ted guilt in the in­ci­dent and claims the sex­ual ac­tiv­ity was mu­tual de­spite all facts dis­pelling such non­sense. He and his fa­ther blame the whole crime upon “the dan­gers of al­co­hol con­sump­tion and sex­ual promis­cu­ity.”

Brock Turner’s vic­tim chal­lenged that nar­ra­tive from her at­tacker and his fa­ther in a pow­er­ful, mov­ing vic­tim im­pact state­ment at Turner’s sen­tenc­ing.

“As this is a first of­fense I can see where le­niency would beckon. On the other hand, as a so­ci­ety, we can­not for­give ev­ery­one’s first sex­ual as­sault or dig­i­tal rape,” she said. “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.”

The woman quoted and re­sponded to sev­eral of Turner’s state­ments for sen­tenc­ing, in­clud­ing this one:

“You said, I stupidly thought it was okay for me to do what ev­ery­one around me was do­ing, which was drink­ing. I was wrong.” In her state­ment, she re­sponded: “Again, you were not wrong for drink­ing. Ev­ery­one around you was not sex­u­ally as­sault­ing me. You were wrong for do­ing what no­body else was do­ing, (sex­u­ally as­sault­ing) ... my naked, de­fense­less body con­cealed in a dark area, where par­ty­go­ers could no longer see or pro­tect me, and my own sis­ter could not find me. Sip­ping Fire­ball is not your crime. Peel­ing off and dis­card­ing my un­der­wear like a candy wrap­per to ... (sex­u­ally as­sault me), is where you went wrong. Why am I still ex­plain­ing this.”

The pub­lic is right to be up­set with Brock Turner and Judge Per­sky, but we are per­haps most an­gry with Dan Turner. As a fa­ther, your most im­por­tant role is help­ing to shape the char­ac­ter of your chil­dren. Down­play­ing his son’s crime as “20 min­utes of ac­tion” and aid­ing ef­forts to try to dis­credit his son’s vic­tim only goes to show that Dan Turner is not the type of man that any should strive to be.

Cit­i­zens rarely have a chance to shape the ju­di­cial branch, but we do have the op­por­tu­nity to shape our chil­dren. Teach­ing our sons to re­spect women and their rights to their bod­ies is as es­sen­tial as teach­ing them how to read and write.

True change in our bat­tle against sex­ual vi­o­lence will start at home rather than in our court­rooms. A good start would be read­ing and dis­cussing the vic­tim im­pact state­ment de­liv­ered by the woman Brock Turner sex­u­ally as­saulted.

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