clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

While Brock Turner was in jail, 75,000 American women were raped

Brock Turner’s prison sentence barely lasted as long its news cycle.

The former Stanford University student sexually assaulted a woman behind a dumpster in January 2015. He initially attracted national outrage after Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky handed down a brief, six-month sentence, claiming anything longer would have a severe impact on Turner. Now, Turner’s name is back in the news because that tiny sentence got a whole lot tinier.

Turner was released Friday, September 2, after only 12 weeks in jail. Although he was found guilty of three felony counts, he is being released early on good behavior.”

During the time Turner was in jail, an estimated 75,000 American women have been raped, according to calculations based on US Department of Justice data. Of course, he’s not responsible for those acts, but the light treatment he’s received from the judicial system partially exemplify the many reasons so many women don’t report or pursue full punishment for their assaults. Like most rapes in this country, we can expect many of these future assaults to continue to go unreported.

But not to worry — Stanford has ensured that “good” men like Brock Turner don’t sexually assault or rape anyone again by banning hard alcohol at their parties, since we all know that vodka sodas are more to blame than rapists. The school even had a helpful page (now deleted because, oops, that was offensive) on their website titled “Female Bodies and Alcohol” to explain why drinking is different for women and women’s “high-risk behavior.” This is a not-so-discreet way of blaming intoxicated women for getting raped instead of say, oh, I don't know, teaching men not to rape women and holding them accountable?

But who can hold Stanford responsible — it’s not like they are the only ones blaming women’s alcohol intake for some men’s raping problem. Turner’s friend Leslie Rasmussen argued in a letter presented to the judge that he wasn’t a rapist because “he was always the sweetest to everyone.” She added that his future shouldn’t be affected by “the decision of a girl who doesn’t remember anything but the amount she drank.”

The woman who pressed charges against Turner, identified as Jane Doe, artfully addressed this false equivalency her own letter to the judge: “Regretting drinking is not the same as regretting sexual assault. We were both drunk, the difference is I did not take off your pants and underwear, touch you inappropriately, and run away. That’s the difference.”

And Stanford is not blameless. The Turner case sheds light on the horrifying sexual assault epidemic across colleges campuses. National statistics show that one in five female college students report being victims of sexual assault, but schools continue to mishandle or try to minimize the magnitude of the issue. In fact, in 2014 91 percent of college campuses reported zero sexual assaults, which is simply counter to the statistical average.

The only silver lining in this rape culture cacophony of a case is that it inspired California’s state assembly to vote unanimously on a minimum sentencing for sexual assailants, which is currently sitting on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk awaiting his signature. This doesn’t address the fact that so few rapists and sexual assailants are ever charged, brought to trial, and convicted to begin with.

And addressing these statistics also required the state to update its definition of rape to match the FBI’s. Under California’s current definition, what Turner did wasn’t even considered rape. Which is in line with Turner’s father’s opinion — in a letter to the judge, he reduced his son’s crime to “20 minutes of action.”

So welcome back to life on this side of the jail cell bars, Brock Turner. Your sentence barely lasted longer than my bikini wax. I think you’ll find that little has changed. Which isn’t surprising, since, after all, you were only in jail for three fucking months.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.