Last week the former Stanford University swimmer and Ohio native, Brock Turner, was released from prison. 21 year old Turner was released early for good behaviour after serving half of a six-month sentence for rape and sexual assault.
Activists and survivors of rape and sexual assault congregated outside a local courthouse in San Jose last week to criticise the short sentence, which is viewed by many as an insult to victims everywhere.
Assault on college campus
In January 2015, two Swedish students spotted a man ‘thrusting’ on top of a motionless woman next to a dumpster near Stanford’s Kappa Alpha fraternity. They intervened and found the woman unconscious and partially dressed. The students held the man until police arrived and made an arrest.
Prosecutors filed criminal charges against the man, who was revealed to be Brock Turner, a college athlete. Turner faced a maximum of fourteen years in prison after a jury found him guilty of ‘assault with intent to rape and sexually penetrating an intoxicated and unconscious person’.
However the judge sentencing Turner, Aaron Persky – also a former Stanford athlete, was allowed under California law to make an exception if he deemed the case ‘unusual’. The judge expressed sympathy for Turner, telling the court room at the time of sentencing that Turner was less morally culpable at the time of the attack as he was drunk. Persky also added that Turner had suffered enough in terms of the media attention the case had garnered.
Following sentencing, the victim released a 7,000 word statement in which she gave a graphic and disturbing account of the attack and the aftermath of the drawn-out trial. The victim points to the fact that Turner’s status as an athlete should not have had an impact on his sentence, she wrote:
“The fact that Brock was a star athlete at a prestigious university should not be seen as an entitlement to leniency, but as an opportunity to send a strong cultural message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class.”
After the release of the victim’s statement, Turner continued to claim that the encounter was consensual and was a result of a copious amount of alcohol. His father even went so far as to call the assault ’20 minutes of action’.
However, the victim’s account of the attack and its affects soon went viral, leading to wide spread hatred of both Turner and Persky.
Demands for recall
Many have called for the recall of Persky and an official campaign was set up by Michele Landis Dauber, a Stanford law professor and family friend of the victim. The judge recently removed himself from the criminal court following the repeated accusations that he has failed to treat violence against women seriously.
In a recent speech by Dauber, she called on the state attorney general to look into Persky’s actions regarding another case, in which he delayed the sentencing of a domestic violence offender so that he could continue to play football in Hawaii.
Persky has not responded to repeated requests for comment and recently launched a campaign to fight the recall. The judge has expressed that he is a strong advocate for “judicial independence” and that he has a “reputation for being fair to both sides”.
New state legislation
The case of Turner and the assault has inspired new state legislation in California, which states that prison is mandatory for those found guilty of sexually assaulting unconscious victims.
Co-founder of the Stanford Association of Students for Sexual Assault Prevention, Stephanie Pham, said that more survivors are coming forward and that she hopes this will help society to recognise the severity of assault.
“Rape isn’t some regrettable act. Rape is a crime. And the fact that that mentality is changing in some way right now is great, but it’s obviously not enough.”
Sexual abuse claims – expert advice
Hampson Hughes Solicitors specialises in directing sexual abuse claims in a considerate and compassionate manner. Our Abuse & Criminal Injuries Department is headed by Greg Neill – Greg is a member of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers (ACAL). More detailed information regarding sexual abuse claims can be found here.
For an open and friendly conversation about your situation, and to find out how we can assist you relevant to your individual experience, call 0800 888 6 888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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