For many of us, it may seem like Brock Turner was just arrested yesterday. Now, he’s getting out.
Turner will be released tomorrow after only three months in jail. The 21-year-old raped an unconscious woman near a dumpster on the Stanford campus in January. He fled the scene after two male students on bicycles saw Turner on top of the woman, but was caught by bystanders and was arrested. He was convicted in March and then sentenced to six months in jail in June.
Prosecutors had originally requested for a six-year sentence, however Judge Aaron Persky ruled that a longer sentence would have “severe impact” on Turner. Early release is common in Santa Clara County for county jail inmates, and Turner will be released after only serving half of his (already too short) sentence due to his supposed good behaviour. Although Turner’s sentence is finished, he still has to complete a three-year probation when he returns to Ohio, which means that he will have to enter a sex offender management program for at least one year or as long as three.
So what does Turner’s incredibly short sentence tell us? And how will it affect survivors in the future?
To many, Turner’s early release is a reminder of the way the legal system fails survivors. It is incredibly rare for a rapist to be found guilty, and this case shows us that even when found guilty, rapists are not given the full consequences of their actions.
This is something that is unsettling for any survivor.
U.S. campuses have a history of hushing rape accusations and sweeping them under the rug. Rape culture, which is defined as a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalised due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality, is a very common and ongoing problem on campuses around the nation and around the world.
Speaking out about an assault is already difficult enough, and instead of helping survivors and providing them with the support and resources that they need, we live in a society that silences them.
Another thing we learned from this case is that there are limited consequences for the privileged. When Turner was first arrested and found guilty, we often saw headlines that included the fact that he was a former Stanford student athlete, and that he was an incredibly good swimmer. None of these things should have mattered when deciding on his sentence, but it’s hard to argue that they didn’t. Due to the fact that he is an educated wealthy white male, Turner was given an unsettlingly short sentence.
The short sentence served by Turner is an insult to survivors everywhere.
Michele Dauber, a Stanford law professor, has organised a rally for Friday morning outside of the jail in protest of the lesser sentence with speakers such as herself and sexual assault survivor and activist, Kamilah Willingham.
Perhaps this can be a small step in the right direction.