10 things to know about the Stanford sexual assault case

10 things to know about the Stanford sexual assault case


Text: Yeong Sassall

Updated: As far as rape trials go, the Stanford sexual assault case that's rapidly expanding on your social media feeds is a huge one. By now we all know the statistics - the  underrepresentation of rape cases in courts and to police, the disarmingly low conviction rates... and the endemic issue of alcohol fuelled violence and sexual assault towards women in colleges and universities - not just in America, but worldwide. Suffice to say, there is TON of interconnected stories and reportage on the Brock Turner case, which we have attempted to outlined for you below. It may not be light reading, but it's important.

1. Brock Allen Turner, 20, a former student at California's Stanford University, is convicted of three counts of sexual assault on an unconscious 23-year-old woman outside a frat party in January 2015. He received six months imprisonment as punishment, with the judge ruling that his lack of criminal history and good character references meant his sentence was lenient. "A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others," said Judge Aaron Persky, as reported by NYMag's The Cut. It is also worth  noting that Turner has been touted a star athlete and swimming star who had hopes of reaching the Olympics one day.

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2. At the sentencing, the victim of Turner's sexual assault read him a letter aloud in court, detailing her side of the story. Powerful, confronting, inspiring and most of all, brave, the victim has many strong statements about consent, the treatment of rape victims in court and by police, the impact of the assault on her life, and - fittingly - her thoughts on the leniency of the sentence, Turner's white male privilege, his athlete status and how he's had to give a "hard earned swimming scholarship".

Buzzfeed have obtained the full transcript  of the 13-page letter (which is well worth a read), but here is an excerpt:     

I was pummeled with narrowed, pointed questions that dissected my personal life, love life, past life, family life, inane questions, accumulating trivial details to try and find an excuse for this guy who had me half naked before even bothering to ask for my name...

... A life, one life, yours, you forgot about mine. Let me rephrase for you, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin two lives. You and me. You are the cause, I am the effect. You have dragged me through this hell with you, dipped me back into that night again and again. You knocked down both our towers, I collapsed at the same time you did. If you think I was spared, came out unscathed, that today I ride off into sunset, while you suffer the greatest blow, you are mistaken. Nobody wins... Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.

3. As the backlash and disbelief over Turner's lenient sentencing has circulated over Twitter, Facebook and the interwebs, so too have a number of related stories. The first, is by far the most disturbing. In a letter, Brock Turner's father criticised the judge's verdict, saying, "That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action." Yep, he went there.

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4. After a delay in releasing Brock Turner's mug shot from both the night of his arrest, it has finally been released. Up until then, the only imagery of Turner has been him looking respectable and apologetic in court wearing a suit. Many commentators, like NYMag's The Cut have dissected this information, pointing out that the Santa Clara Sheriff's Department would have not have been so quick to hide the identity of a rapist had he been African American.

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5. The two key witnesses to the case - two Swedish men who saw Turner assault on the victim have broken their silence. Carl-Fredrik Arndt and Peter Jonss were cycling to a party when they witnessed the incident. "We saw that she was not moving, while he was moving a lot," Arndt told Swedish paper Expressen. "So we stopped and thought, 'This is very strange'." After approaching Turner, they saw that the victim was unconscious. "When he got up we saw that she still wasn't moving at all, so we walked up and asked something like, 'What are you doing?'" After Turner attempted to run off, the two men tackled him to the ground. "She was unconscious. The entire time. I checked her and she didn't move at all," says Arndt, in a chilling indictment, especially considering Turner's lawyers repeatedly stated that the sex was consensual during the trial.

6. According to police reports and the victim's statement, Jonsson was so upset by what he'd seen he was crying when recounting the attack. In the victim's statement, she addresses this fact, then praises the two heroes:

When the policeman arrived and interviewed the evil Swede who tackled you, he was crying so hard he couldn't speak because of what he'd seen...

... Most importantly, thank you to the two men who saved me, who I have yet to meet. I sleep with two bicycles that I drew taped above my bed to remind myself there are heroes in this story. That we are looking out for one another.

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7. Judge Aaron Persky, who gave Turner the six month conviction, faces heavy criticism over his controversial ruling. It's also come to light that Pesky was involved in another campus sexual assault case in 2011. In 2007, a 17 year old girl accused nine members of a college baseball team of gang raping her at a house party. Even though the unconscious girl was discovered by three female soccer players, passed out and covered in vomit, the case was dismissed by the District Attorney. It later went to civil trial - where Judge Aaron Persky presided - where all the men accused were acquitted or dismissed, and the case was settled for considerably less than the $7.5m she victim was asking for.

8. After Turner's Dad's chilling letter, a childhood friend of Turner has also jumped to his defence in a letter to Judge Aaron Pesky, which has now been published on The Cut. In the letter (which you can see in full), she blames the ruling on political correctness.

I don't think it's fair to base the fate of the next ten + years of his life on the decision of a girl who doesn't remember anything but the amount she drank to press charges against him. I am not blaming her directly for this, because that isn't right. But where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn't always because people are rapists.

9. Yesterday, The Guardian obtained an excerpt from Brock Turner's statement to Judge Aaron Persky, which you can read on their site. In the statement, Turner says he never wants to "have a drop of alcohol again" or "attend a social gathering that involves alcohol or any situation where people make decisions based on the substances they have consumed". He expresses regret for hurting the victim (who has chosen to not be identified, more on that below):

I would give anything to change what happened that night. I can never forgive myself for imposing trauma and pain on [redacted]. It debilitates me to think that my actions have caused her emotional and physical stress that is completely unwarranted and unfair. The thought of this is in my head every second of every day since this event has occurred. These ideas never leave my mind. During the day, I shake uncontrollably from the amount I torment myself by thinking about what has happened.

In the statement, as he pleaded for probation to the judge, Turner goes on to blame his actions on peer pressure, excessive drinking and a campus culture of partying and sex:

One needs to recognize the influence that peer pressure and the attitude of having to fit in can have on someone. One decision has the potential to change your entire life. I know I can impact and change people's attitudes towards the culture surrounded by binge drinking and sexual promiscuity that protrudes through what people think is at the core of being a college student. I want to demolish the assumption that drinking and partying are what make up a college lifestyle I made a mistake, I drank too much, and my decisions hurt someone.

Turner is now a registered sex offender for life, and he has mentioned that he has "lost two jobs solely based on the reporting of my case".

10. Yesterday, the victim released a statement to KTVU Fox 2 about why she has chosen to remain anonymous. It reads:

I remain anonymous, yes to protect my identity.
But it is also a statement, that all of these people are fighting for someone they don't know.
That's the beauty of it. I don't need labels, categories, to prove I am worthy of respect, to prove that I should be listened to.
I am coming out to you as simply a woman wanting to be heard.
Yes there is plenty more I'd like to tell you about me.
For now, I am every woman.

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