Earlier this year, 20-year-old Brock Turner, an All-American swimmer at Stanford University, was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman during a 2015 incident. Two graduate students had come upon Turner, a freshman at the time, thrusting his body upon a half-naked, unconscious woman behind a dumpster in the dark. Last week, a judge handed down Turner’s sentence: six months in a county jail and probation. The ruling drew outrage from many as being too lenient, but the judge reasoned that a harsher sentence would have a “severe impact” on Turner’s life. Just prior to the judge issuing the sentence, Turner’s victim stood before him in court and read aloud an abbreviated version of a statement submitted to the judge revealing the severe impact Turner’s sex attack has had on her life. Her words were chilling as she recalled attending a campus party with her sister and then being unable to remember anything until she awoke in a hospital and was told she was assaulted. The woman’s remarks were widely praised on social media for their raw power after several media outlets published the statement in its entirety. Here’s an excerpt:
“A deputy explained I had been assaulted. I still remained calm, assured he was speaking to the wrong person. I knew no one at this party. When I was finally allowed to use the restroom,” the woman, now 23, wrote, “I pulled down the hospital pants they had given me, went to pull down my underwear, and felt nothing. I still remember the feeling of my hands touching my skin and grabbing nothing. I looked down and there was nothing. The thin piece of fabric, the only thing between my vagina and anything else, was missing and everything inside me was silenced. I still don’t have words for that feeling. In order to keep breathing, I thought maybe the policemen used scissors to cut them off for evidence.”
As courageous and gripping as her words were, they weren’t the only remarks to draw a strong reaction on social media. The father of Brock Turner had submitted a statement to the judge as well, urging him to punish his son with probation only. His words were mostly met with outrage after an excerpt of the statement surfaced online.
“He will never be his happy go lucky self with that easy going personality and welcoming smile,” Turner’s father wrote about his son, who once aspired to be an Olympic swimmer. “His every waking minute is consumed with worry, anxiety, fear, and depression. You can see this in his face, the way he walks, his weakened voice, his lack of appetite.”
He continued, writing, “These verdicts have broken and shattered him and our family in so many ways. His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of 20 plus years of his life.” Turner’s father also read his statement aloud in court, and it was the “20 minutes of action” passage that many found offensive and even symptomatic of rape culture.