Some Lives are More Important than Others

TW: Contains descriptions of drugging and rape. There may also be some NSFW language.

For the past couple of days, I’ve been wrestling with whether or not to write about this. On the one hand, a crime like this, and the non-punishment that has followed, is a glaring example of straight white male privilege and arguably should be written about. On the other, this particular case hits a little close to home for me.

In January 2015, a woman was sexually assaulted next to a dumpster outside a fraternity house near Stanford University. She had far more to drink than was a good idea, her blood alcohol level tested for three times the legal limit after the assault. In fact, she had lost consciousness, and could not have consented to having sex. The rape was discovered when some Swedish national students found the rapist on top of the woman and pulled him off. All these are facts that can be found here in the police report.

In March of this year, when the case finally went to trial, the rapist was found guilty of 2 counts of sexual assault by a jury and could have been sentenced for a maximum of 10 years in prison. The CA state prosecutors requested the judge sentence him to 6 years in prison.

Yesterday, the judge decided to sentence him to 6 months in county prison and probation. His reasoning?

The judge, Aaron Perksy, cited (the rapist)’s age and lack of criminal history as factors in his decision, saying, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him … I think he will not be a danger to others.”

I should say at this point that the rapist, Brock Allan Turner, was a school swimming champion. A white man with a “promising future”. Nothing really about the victim, but focused entirely on the perpetrator. The victim made a moving, brutal impact statement in court prior to sentencing. As Rob Beschizza said in BoingBoing yesterday, the judge ignored her statement. Because some lives are more important than others. Certainly white men with promising futures matter more than an assault victim.

I wasn’t raped when I was in college. That was, frankly, sheer dumb luck. There were women who were not as fortunate. Mine happened not much after college. I’ve written about it before so I won’t bore anyone with the details, but I was drugged and unconscious. I chose not to report what happened to the police, a decision I wouldn’t exactly recommend to others but that I’ve never regretted. The woman in this case was unable to make that decision for herself (the witnesses apparently did that for her). But with a trial as clear-cut as this one, where the jury found the defendant guilty and the maximum penalty was recommended? And the judge ignored all of it? It is the message that rape survivors have received over the years: our lives are nothing in comparison to the lives of our attackers.

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