Condemn leniency of sentencing in recent cases of sexual assault
For the average college student, three months is the duration of a summer internship — but for Brock Turner, three months in prison is apparently all the time needed to serve after assaulting a young woman. Turner was released from prison on Sept. 2 after only three months.
On Jan. 18, 2015, after a college party organized by the Kappa Alpha fraternity, two graduate students found Brock Turner making sexual advances on a young woman that was clearly unconscious.
According to the court document published in the Los Angeles Times on June 10, a witness stated that Turner was “on top of her aggressively thrusting his hips into her,” as observed when the witness got closer to the scene. The unconscious survivor was stripped from the waist down and assaulted. This image is gruesome, but it is the harsh reality of what happened.
According to the court document, Turner, just as many other college freshmen, had received multiple lectures on the importance of consent, especially when drugs and alcohol are involved — so it is reasonable to assume he understood the severity of his actions. Though, according to the court document, Turner himself had been drinking and was reported to have a blood alcohol content of .016, alcohol does not cloud the basic knowledge of what is and what is not consent. Turner, just as any other individual, cannot use intoxication as an excuse, because he is still accountable for his actions regardless of the circumstance. It should also be noted that, according to the same court document, Turner had tried to kiss several other young women that evening, one of whom was the survivor’s younger sister. This goes to show that he was not interested in getting to know this one young woman in particular; Turner was looking for any type of sexual interaction. Since other women at the party had turned him down, he apparently deemed it appropriate to pursue a woman who could not give clear verbal consent.
Turner claims that the interaction was consensual and that the survivor had agreed to dancing and kissing, among other acts. Even if she had previously consented, however, he should have stopped his actions once she could no longer verbalize her consent. According to a July 8 Huffington Post article, Turner justified being behind a dumpster because he “naively assumed that it was accepted to be intimate with someone in a place that wasn’t my room.” This, in itself, does not excuse the fact that the young woman was unable to make any decisions regarding her body and with whom she chose to be intimate.
On Thursday, June 2, Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Brock Turner to six months in county jail for his act. According to a June 7 CNN article, Persky felt that “Turner’s age and lack of criminal history made [Persky] feel that imposing a six-month jail sentence with probation was appropriate.” Persky also stated that “a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him.” Why is the judge more concerned about the impact that prison might have on a man who committed a crime as opposed to the impact that the crime had on the survivor? The survivor, who has chosen to remain nameless, deserves more than knowing that Turner’s crime was only worthy of 6 months jail time.
To make this even worse, Turner only served three months in jail before being released. According to the Criminal Justice Realignment of 2011, conduct credits, or half time credits, can accumulate for those who exhibit good behavior, essentially allowing inmates to only serve half of the original sentence. I can understand this working for a first-time offender committing petty theft, but for something as serious as rape, there is not enough “good behavior” to excuse it.
The truth is, Turner is not the only person to have received such leniency for a sexual offense. David Becker, an 18-year-old Massachusetts native, was charged with two counts of rape and one of indecent assault, but according to an Aug. 30 CNN article, Becker only received two years’ probation. If he successfully completes the two years, the charges will not wind up on his record.
Yet another college-aged criminal is John Enochs. According to a June 28 Huffington Post article, a young woman filed a police report on April 25, 2015, claiming that she was assaulted on April 11 in the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house at Indiana University. She later identified John Enochs, someone who already had a criminal past, as her attacker. On Oct. 21, 2013, another woman had come forward about Enochs assaulting her earlier in the month, but she opted against a lawsuit until 2015 in light of the second case.
Then there is Austin James Wilkerson, who received two years in jail under a work-release program along with 20 years of probation. According to an Aug. 12 CNN article, Wilkerson took a young woman he knew from high school to his off-campus home under the pretense of ensuring her safety after she became intoxicated at a party. Then, once the two were alone, he sexually assaulted her. He even claimed that the act was consensual because of her alleged pleasure when he touched her.
Again and again, we see people who cannot differentiate between consent and rape, yet they are pitied enough to evade adequate punishment. Why do society and the justice system place more importance on the comfort of young men than on the security of young women? Young men who commit crimes of this nature should not be given plea deals and shortened sentences because a judge does not want to strip them of their freedom and youth; judges should instead think about the young women who have to deal with the subsequent trauma. Until we, collectively, place an equal value on the lives of women as well, this sick trend will most likely continue to occur on and off of campuses everywhere.