Former Stanford swimmer Brock Allen Turner felt the weight of a six-month jail sentence last Friday, and the public is still struggling to cope with this reality. Many people feel the sentence is too lenient. After all, Turner is guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman who he met at a fraternity party. Two witnesses discovered Turner atop the woman behind a dumpster. She later woke up in the hospital while receiving a rape exam and learned what happened to her from media reports. This survivor’s devastating letter to her attacker went viral and countered the father of Turner, who defended his son by saying any jail time is too steep for “20 minutes of action.”
Turner had other defenders, including a friend who believed political correctness was much more responsible than the man who committed the rape. In response, the internet fueled a meme and Nancy Grace emerged as a voice of reason for those who feel Turner’s slight sentence doesn’t work justice. Now we’re hearing from Turner himself, sort of, in the form of his own statement to the court. Despite the relatively small sentence he eventually received, Turner feels that he will be held responsible for life. And he views his actions as a misstep fueled by alcohol and the party culture of Stanford.
The Guardian published Turner’s letter to judge Aaron Persky. He expresses regret for the hurt he caused, but he thinks that he shouldn’t be strongly punished because of what he calls “poor judgment.” Turner feels completely ruined and wishes he never attended Stanford:
My shell and core of who I am as a person is forever broken from this. I am a changed person. At this point in my life, I never want to have a drop of alcohol again. I never want to attend a social gathering that involves alcohol or any situation where people make decisions based on the substances they have consumed. I never want to experience being in a position where it will have a negative impact on my life or someone else’s ever again. I’ve lost two jobs solely based on the reporting of my case. I wish I never was good at swimming or had the opportunity to attend Stanford, so maybe the newspapers wouldn’t want to write stories about me.
Turner argues that he felt pressured to “fit in” with the crowd. He believed that being sexually promiscuous would make him belong, which is his way of explaining why he violated an unconscious person. But he continues:
I’ve been shattered by the party culture and risk taking behavior that I briefly experienced in my four months at school. I’ve lost my chance to swim in the Olympics. I’ve lost my ability to obtain a Stanford degree. I’ve lost employment opportunity, my reputation and most of all, my life … I want to let young people now, as I did not, that things can go from fun to ruined in just one night.
Turner’s entire statement can be read in full here. He admits feeling tortured by his actions, which he says are always on his mind. But he still paints the entire situation as a blip in judgment. His words point towards more regret for drinking the alcohol and attending the university than the act of sexual assault. As the survivor’s letter pointed out, “everything inside me was silenced.” Turner’s sentiments are startlingly similar, as he feels that his very core is irreparably broken — not necessarily because of what he did, but because of media attention and other outside forces. Somehow, he’s painting himself as a victim.
Beyond the lack of personal responsibility at work, folks continue to wonder why Judge Persky delivered such a lenient sentence. As it turns out, he is a Stanford alumnus, but there’s a lot more at work behind a petition for his removal from the bench. However, Persky just received a new 6-year term because there were no other contenders for his position, so he’ll likely be donning the robes of justice for quite some time.