I saw someone comment today that they were quitting Facebook for a while because it’s nothing but torches and pitchforks at the moment. Excuse me if I’m cynical, but I doubt it will be any better in “a while”.
So after the Stanford rape victim’s account went viral over the weekend, the rapist’s father’s plea followed that (proving to be a rather blunt and ugly juxtaposition), and now this has melted into a couple of petitions to recall Judge Aaron Persky who chose the six-month, below-minimum sentence in the first place. Yes, the outrage is everywhere. But so is the support.
After editing Tony Veitch’s sorry-not-sorry a few weeks back, I was tempted to do the same for Dan Turner’s depiction of how much his son has suffered.
However, I won’t.
Because, you know what? Outrage and pitchforks won’t change his mind. The man loves and supports his son. No amount of ranty tweets or threats or copy-editing will destroy that.
Don’t get me wrong, there are fruitful ways to harness all this anger and turn it into positive change. Recalling, or simply failing to reelect the judge will help. Perhaps paying more attention to judicial elections in the first place would have helped. No that’s not victim-blaming. If you want better leaders, you just need to follow three steps: read, think, and then vote. We’re not victims in this process. We hold all the cards.
However, I will try to address Mr. Turner (the elder) in a civil fashion. From reading the excerpt from his letter, it’s clear to me (and probably everyone else) that he does not grasp what his son did wrong. It would appear that he’s choosing to believe that his son simply got drunk, and attempted to have regrettable sex in a public place, and that act (while stupid) is not worthy of the kind of moral suffering that his son has had to face. There is no real mention of the young woman who found herself the focus of Brock Turner’s attentions, but one can presume that he believes she is at best confused about an encounter that she does not remember. To Mr. Turner, his son is a dumb kid who drunk too much, but not a rapist.
Except that he is. Remember, this is not an alleged crime. He was convicted. Brock Turner is no doubt many many things to his father, but his father must be deaf and blind to deny that (among all those other things) Brock is also a convicted rapist.
I’d like to believe that, if Brock Turner had simply taken his drunken hands and put them on a steering wheel, and killed or maimed the same poor woman, his father would at least acknowledge her and her family’s suffering. See, we hold drunk people accountable for car accidents (even though they almost always didn’t set out to cause an accident). We hold drunk people accountable for liquor store robberies. We hold drunk people accountable for beating their spouses, and punching cops, and urinating in public. Most people don’t break the law when they drink, but some do, and those people still get called to account for their choices. So why, WHY would he have had so much more sympathy for this young woman if his son had simply hit her with a car? I know which crime I’d prefer to have to suffer through…
At some point, Mr. Turner may have to understand that rapists don’t all look like the bogey man. They don’t have horns and tails. They are as human as you or me. They can be funny and generous and kind in other areas of their lives. They can be good kids, and caring spouses, and talented athletes. But none of that mitigates the fact that they’re still rapists. None of it mitigates the fact that they feel the have a right to someone else’s body, and don’t care much about the collateral damage.
The acknowledgement of that last bit is sorely lacking in this case. Brock (and his father) didn’t care about the young woman then and they don’t care about her now. They may argue that we don’t know the full facts of the case. They may argue that she consented and simply made up a story later. They may even argue that she is the cause of all his suffering. But still: convicted. The jury believed her and so do I. Ultimately Brock is the cause of his own suffering, and hers, and his father’s. His choices weren’t foolish and childish, they were selfish and sadistic.
The vast majority of people don’t make those choices. Rape (unlike vehicular manslaughter) isn’t something that you can do by accident. Brock is still young, so there is ample time for him to come to terms with his crime, and explore the reasons why he did what he did, and perhaps even work to try and make amends. However, that journey won’t begin until he accepts responsibility for his own actions.
He might want to start by spending some time away from his family.