Brock Turner, the student convicted of rape, was recently let out three months into his six month sentence on good behavior. There have been protests and a huge public uproar over this “unfair sentence,” some people have started to question whether or not this sentence is really fair.
On one hand, the people who feel anger at his early release and gentle sentencing must consider the ramifications of his sentence. Turner is young. The judge excused him, and gave him a gentler sentence on the grounds that his record has been clean thus far, he was inebriated at the time (alcohol impairs judgment), and this was his first offense.
Is Brock Turner’s sentence adequate? No. But some people believe it is.
Here’s why: he has been saddled with a three year probation and has to register as a sex offender. Registering as a sex offender is a lifetime sentence in itself . Everyone who lives near him will be notified that there is a sex offender in the area, and law enforcement will always have access to his private information in order to monitor him.
Killing a person is often cited as the highest form of crime. Yet, while you can accidentally kill a person for the sake of self-defense, you cannot rape someone in self-defense.
People are arguing that Brock Turner will be shunned, shamed, and cast out. Even now, people in his neighborhood are protesting, making sure that wherever he goes he can hear and see their hate demonstrated with signs such as “Castrate Rapists” and worse. The social stigma will dog his footsteps wherever he goes. He will feel the ripples of the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life.
However, let us still take a moment and put the crime of rape into perspective. Killing a person is often cited as the highest form of crime. Yet, while you can accidentally kill a person for the sake of self-defense, you cannot rape someone in self-defense.
The act of thievery is also given some leniency especially if the thief in question is a first time offender. Why? Because poverty and desperation can drive a person to steal something in a time of need. Both killing and thievery, as bleak and sad as it is, can be justified with the need for survival.
There is no survival instinct associated with rape. Rape is a crime perpetrated solely with a selfish intent and thus, it can in no way be justified. Turner destroyed a person’s sense of well-being, and ripped her dignity and self-worth from her not just behind a dumpster that night but also in court as he and his lawyers remorselessly forced her to relive her experiences again and again.
He did not even have the decency to plead guilty but stubbornly insisted on his innocence, blaming alcohol, until finally, when there was no hope for him, he accepted his sentence.
He falsified information, indicating he had neither repentance nor regret. His father called his sentence “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.” However, this is a standard rape sentence.
He has become a symbol of the unfairness in our justice system, at least regarding sexual assault as well as racial privilege. As such, although a guilty individual, he has become a scapegoat of the injustices suffered by others.
Did Turner’s father even think of the impact of the sickening violation on the victim? He even blamed her for being sexually promiscuous as she lay there, blackout drunk. She is a human being. Being a young, white, privileged male from an elite school shouldn’t matter. Media have focused more on the fact that he comes from Stanford than the rape itself.
We cannot know whether his actions were thoughtless and misguided or a deep-rooted irreverence for the sanctity of a human being. However, I do believe in second chances and I do not believe he deserves to die, unlike some of the people protesting outside his door. I believe that there is opportunity for moral growth.
It is not outrageous to suggest that the heat from rape cases not properly brought to justice have been directed on Turner. He has become a symbol of the unfairness in our justice system, at least regarding sexual assault as well as racial privilege. As such, although a guilty individual, he has become a scapegoat of the injustices suffered by others.
Turner is guilty. He is a rapist. He deserves the six years in prison the prosecutors recommended. Yes, he will suffer, but all rapists suffer an average of ten years in prison and the social rejection afterwards.
While you can accidentally kill a person for the sake of self-defense, you cannot rape someone in self-defense.
Being drunk does not force you to sexually assault someone. The victim is not an “unfortunate result” of binge drinking, as much as Stanford University would like to suggest by banning hard alcohol at parties since this rape case came to light.
Try as Turner might to duck responsibility by blaming the act of rape on his impaired judgment due to alcohol, and as his father blames the victim for being sexually promiscuous, the weight of it rests squarely on his shoulders. Ultimately, three months is too short, not only for the act of rape, but also for the year of trial and emotional trauma he forced the victim to go through .
There is no moral grey area. Rape is rape. Respecting the privacy and intimacy of a person’s body, no matter the race or background or gender, should be an unshakable moral principle entrenched in the very foundation of society.