Former Stanford student athlete Brock Turner, infamous for raping an unconscious woman on Jan. 18, 2015, was recently released from prison on Sept. 2 after 3 months on good behavior. His already lenient sentence of 6 months in county jail caused significant backlash and opened up the discussion on race, class, and sex based privilege. Now, his early release from jail has caused widespread anger and disappointment, and rightly so.
The story of Turner is one riddled with unjust advantages that stem from being a white male hailing from a prosperous family. His privilege extended to the courts, as seen with Judge Aaron Persky’s ruling, and many major media outlets that chose to emphasize Turner as a former Stanford student athlete (keyword: former), and used head shots of him in news pieces. It can be confidently said that if Turner were a minority race or from a lower socioeconomic household, his mugshot, not a head shot, would be widely circulated.
Those in defense of Turner, whether they cite his athletic potential or argue what is legally defined as rape (as Turner’s father did), are justifying rape and supporting privilege— the idea that it’s okay for some men to be above the law— and furthering misogyny.
According to CNN, Turner’s friend Leslie Rasmussen was asked to write a character statement for use in Turner’s trial, and in it she wrote about his talent and intelligence and caring nature, and said that “It’s pretty frustrating to see the light that people are putting him in now. It used to be ‘swim star’ and now it’s like he is the face of rape on campuses.”
Later on in the statement, she goes on to make excuses for his actions. “I don’t think it’s fair to base the fate of the next 10+ 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,” Rasmussen wrote. “I think it is disgusting and I am so sick of hearing that these young men are monsters when really, you are throwing barely twenty-somethings into these camp-like university environments, supporting partying, and then your mind is blown when things get out of hand.”
After public outrage and condemnation of her words, Rasmussen issued an apology, but her original thoughts are still representative of what so many people think: a young white man who makes a mistake, even when that mistake happens to be rape, shouldn’t be penalized because he has a future.
Judge Persky clearly had the same opinion, as he ruled that a sentence longer than 6 months would have a severe impact on Turner.
The young woman he raped, known as the Stanford Victim, was severely impacted by Turner’s actions, but her story was widely disregarded except by news and entertainment platform Buzzfeed, who published her powerful letter. In it, she writes about her confusion at waking up on a hospital gurney and being thoroughly inspected and examined.
At the end of the day, Turner, despite his character and academic and athletic achievements, is a rapist who took advantage of a young woman lying unconscious behind a dumpster. His early release from jail, and his light sentencing, is not only unfair, but acts as a testimonial to the United States justice system. His case makes it clear that not everyone is treated equally. Actions have consequences, but when you’re a white, rich male, the consequences are minimized.
Carina Wang, Editor-in-Chief
Junior Carina Wang is the Editor-in-Chief of The Colonel. She participates in Girls’ Tennis. Outside of school, she can be found volunteering her time at humanitarian nonprofits, running a study inspiration Tumblr blog, or avidly refreshing PowerSchool.