It has been two years since jurors convicted former Stanford University student Brock Turner of sexual assault, punishable by a maximum of 14 years in state prison in California. The female Plaintiff alleged she was intoxicated when Turner assaulted her behind a dumpster after a party. The case sparked a national debate over sexual violence policies at universities and alcohol’s affect on consent when both parties are incapacitated. The most significant public outcry perhaps came after the judge sentenced Turner to only six months in county jail. On June 2, 2016, Superior Court Judge Aaron Perksy told the courtroom,
“A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him… Mr. Turner came before us today and said he was genuinely sorry for all the pain that he has caused to [Jane] and her family. And I think that is a genuine feeling of remorse.”
Persky cited character letters written on Turner’s behalf as evidence showing his “character, up until the night of the incident, as positive.” He was accused of making an exception for the Defendant because he was a young student athlete, praised for his swimming accomplishments, who had also been drinking.
“The argument can be made that it’s more morally culpable for someone with no alcohol in their system to commit an offense like that than with someone who was legally intoxicated…”
Recently, Mr. Turner was released from county jail after serving 3 of the 6 months he was sentenced to. Since the initial sentencing, people have demanded that Judge Persky be impeached. A petition to remove him from the bench gained over 1.3 million signatures, and a recall campaign started immediately. Michele Dauber, the Stanford professor who ignited the recall fight, says the judge “took extraordinary measures to allow the student to avoid prison.” People advocating for Persky’s removal say he partially blamed the assault on alcohol, not the assailant. “What were you wearing? Were you drinking?” These are questions victims of assault are far too familiar with.
On Tuesday, almost 60% of Santa Clara County residents voted in favor of the recall. “We voted that sexual violence, including campus sexual violence, must be taken seriously by our elected officials, and by the justice system,” said Dauber. The certified election result means that Persky will no longer be a judge. The controversial recall is a victory for many survivors of assault and members of the #metoo movement. Voters sent a resounding message against “impunity” for those convicted of sexual assault. It is finally a form of justice that Turner’s victim was denied when Persky gave his 2016 ruling.
“I was in disbelief, consumed by anger which eventually quieted down to profound sadness,” Turner’s victim said in a letter the day of the ruling. “…we should not create a culture that suggests we learn that rape is wrong through trial and error. The consequences of sexual assault need to be severe…”, she said.
The Plaintiff complied with Turner’s right to a criminal trial, risking her personal life and privacy, though many sexual assault cases settle out of court. She left an emotional courtroom with this declaration:
“You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today… to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought every day for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you.”
Philadelphia sexual assault attorney Melissa Hague helps survivors of sexual assault get justice in the civil court system. Not all cases require a confrontation in court, and most are settled privately and confidentially. You can reach Melissa any time at our offices by calling 484-344-5850 or contact her by filing out the form below and she will respond to your message within 24 hours.
If you think you may have been sexually assaulted you can find support online at rainn.org or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE.