The Stanford University sexual assault story became uglier yesterday when the Santa Clara County Superior Court released 471 pages of documents that appear to prove that almost every defense claim made by the defendant, Brock Turner, under oath, was untrue.
The story, horrible as it is on the face of it, attracted international attention this week when, after a jury convicted Turner of three counts of sexual assault, the judge in the trial gave the sexual assaulter a lighter sentence than the one requested by prosecutors. The judge, Aaron Persky, told the court that he “took [Turner] at his word” when he decided to send Turner to county jail for six months instead of state prison for several years, as prosecutors had requested. He will have to register as a sex offender with every landlord and with whomever may employ him for the rest of his life.
It is understood that he will get out of jail after three months. Vice reports, “According to the website of California’s Santa Clara County Department of Corrections, he is to be released on Sept. 2, 12 weeks before his planned release, because ‘it was assessed that he was unlikely to misbehave behind bars.'” Whatever the opposite of Philip K. Dick’s “pre-crime” is, this sounds like it.
It is not clear what effect, if any, the 471 pages disproving the value of the convicted sexual assaulter’s “word” might have on the case. This is because the facts remain the same: a woman’s life was forever changed one night last year, and her assailant did everything he could to blame her, the “party culture” on college campuses, and alcohol for his assault. And the culture at large seems to be on his side, with only a few notable exceptions.
One detail stands out in the new 471 pages: he may have assaulted “Emily Doe” (the victim’s name is protected), photographed her with his cell phone while she was unconscious and half-naked beside the dumpster he had dragged her behind, messaged the photo to his friends, ran away when he thought he had been discovered, and then returned to continue the assault, at which point two bicyclists discovered him in the act.
On page 28 of the 53-page felony complaint from January 2015, an interview with a possible eyewitness is summarized: the witness, visiting the Stanford University campus, “noticed a male subject standing over her with a cell phone. He was holding the cell phone. The cell phone had a bright light pointed in the direction of the female, using either a flashlight app in his phone or its built in flash. He [the eyewitness] approached this subject and asked if everything was okay. The male subject did not say anything to He told the male-subject to roll her over on her side to breath. The male subject did not do this. then got down on his knees and checked her pulse. When he got back up, the male subject was gone. He had no recall of the physical description of the male except to say he was a male. He did not know the female or the male. He had nothing further to add.”
The police are investigating whether the “male subject” is Brock Turner—the “male subject” who acted like he was helping a female on the ground when he was discovered shining a light on her but then vanished once the third party went to check her pulse.
After he was arrested, while he was in custody, the convicted sexual assaulter’s phone received a message via his GroupMe app. “Whos t*t is that” (sic) read the message from a member of the sexual assaulter’s circle of GroupMe friends. The body part being asked about is apparently the topic of a photo, but whatever the photo was of and whoever was in it is now lost: the photo was deleted by an unknown third party, perhaps in an attempt to destroy evidence of the sexual assaulter’s actions. Police are continuing to investigate this part of the story.
Under oath, the sexual assaulter showed that he retained at least one thing from whatever exposure he may have been given in high school classes that discussed rape and sexual assault: claim consent. No. It is more precise than that: claim he requested consent, multiple times, and state that he thought he received consent. Claim that he thought he had asked for and received consent from his victim—and thus is only guilty of misinterpreting mixed signals from her as consent, as if he is only guilty of a sort of semantic oops, a college freshman’s overeager desire to fit in. Claim that he asked his victim if she liked what they were doing. It is as if he thinks—because much of our culture thinks this—it is as if he thinks that the word “consent,” when used sufficiently when one is accused of sexual violence, that that word will act as a sort of magic eraser that can transform what he did to her psyche and to her body into something far worse: what her charges are doing to him.
In her incredible victim’s statement, read to her assaulter’s face in court (and now shared, with her blessing, thousands if not millions of times on social media thanks to her bravery), she said,
“Brock stated, ‘At no time did I see that she was not responding. If at any time I thought she was not responding, I would have stopped immediately.’ Here’s the thing; if your plan was to stop only when I became unresponsive, then you still do not understand. You didn’t even stop when I was unconscious anyway! Someone else stopped you. Two guys on bikes noticed I wasn’t moving in the dark and had to tackle you. How did you not notice while on top of me?
“To sit under oath and inform all of us, that yes I wanted it, yes I permitted it, and that you are the true victim attacked by [bicyclists] for reasons unknown to you, is appalling, is demented, is selfish, is damaging. It is enough to be suffering. It is another thing to have someone ruthlessly working to diminish the gravity of validity of this suffering.
“He claimed that I orgasmed after one minute of digital penetration. The nurse said there had been abrasions, lacerations, and dirt in my genitalia. Was that before or after I came?”
[…]”He said he had asked if I wanted to dance. Apparently I said yes. He’d asked if I wanted to go to his dorm, I said yes. Then he asked if he could finger me and I said yes. Most guys don’t ask, can I finger you? Usually there’s a natural progression of things, unfolding consensually, not a Q and A. But apparently I granted full permission. He’s in the clear. Even in his story, I only said a total of three words, yes yes yes, before he had me half naked on the ground. Future reference, if you are confused about whether a girl can consent, see if she can speak an entire sentence. You couldn’t even do that. Just one coherent string of words. Where was the confusion? This is common sense, human decency.
“According to him, the only reason we were on the ground was because I fell down. Note: if a girl falls down help her get back up. If she is too drunk to even walk and falls down, do not mount her, hump her, take off her underwear, and insert your hand inside her vagina. If a girl falls down, help her up. If she is wearing a cardigan over her dress don’t take it off so that you can touch her breasts. Maybe she is cold, maybe that’s why she wore the cardigan.
“Next in the story, two Swedes on bicycles approached you and you ran. When they tackled you why didn’t say, ‘Stop! Everything’s okay, go ask her, she’s right over there, she’ll tell you.’ I mean you had just asked for my consent, right? I was awake, right? When the policeman arrived and interviewed the evil Swede who tackled you, he was crying so hard he couldn’t speak because of what he’d seen.”
The sexual assaulter claimed that his mistake was one of poor decision-making. That he chose to attend a frat party, that he drank too much. That he wishes he never drank another drop for the rest of his life. That’s fine. I am aware of some programs that can help with a desire to be a teetotaller; the phone number can be found on the very first page of the phone book, as they say.
There is a difference between making bad choices and opting for the bad decision while under the influence of alcohol and making sociopathic decisions and choosing to do evil when presented with life’s ever-present coin-flip between “not doing evil” and “evil.”
Readers of my columns here (the whole couple of you) know that I do not shy from describing some of my poor decisions made under impaired judgement thanks to my own active alcoholism, now in remission 2158 days. I have nothing against alcohol; it’s just that it and I are divorced. Among my poorly considered decisions made under the influence are more than a few times in which I got behind the wheel of a car, one in which I attempted to start a commuter train, and one in which I turned down a very good job that had not been offered to me but this did not matter because I should not have been at the interview to begin with.
And I attempted to force a not-friendly kiss on a woman for whom I had feelings of romantic love but who was not interested in me kissing her then or any other day in our lives. She said no. I stopped, but not immediately. If this is the closest I ever approached to being a sociopath, one who knows the difference between right and wrong and chooses evil anyway, I do not know, but it is close enough to evil that it is a moment I feel sorrow over to this day. She and I still are friends and we had a conversation about the incident as a part of my process of repairing my life.
The victim of the Stanford University sexual assault addressed alcohol and decisions made under its influence in her brilliant statement:
“You said, Being drunk I just couldn’t make the best decisions and neither could she.
“Alcohol is not an excuse. Is it a factor? Yes. But alcohol was not the one who stripped me, fingered me, had my head dragging against the ground, with me almost fully naked. Having too much to drink was an amateur mistake that I admit to, but it is not criminal. Everyone in this room has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much, or knows someone close to them who has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much. Regretting drinking is not the same as regretting sexual assault. We were both drunk, the difference is I did not take off your pants and underwear, touch you inappropriately, and run away. That’s the difference.
“You said, I stupidly thought it was okay for me to do what everyone around me was doing, which was drinking. I was wrong.
“Again, you were not wrong for drinking. Everyone around you was not sexually assaulting me. You were wrong for doing what nobody else was doing, which was pushing your erect dick in your pants against my naked, defenseless body concealed in a dark area, where partygoers could no longer see or protect me, and my own sister could not find me. Sipping fireball is not your crime. Peeling off and discarding my underwear like a candy wrapper to insert your finger into my body, is where you went wrong.
An elderly man asked me last week if I was following the case. I nodded my head, yes. “Alcohol ruined two lives,” he declaimed. He even shook a fist in the air.
This seems to be the understanding of the Stanford University sexual assault case in the culture at large. I hope I am wrong and I hope Vice President Joe Biden’s public letter to the victim continues to be widely circulated as an example of what empathy over sexual assault looks like. He wrote, “[we need] to change the culture on our college campuses—a culture that continues to ask the wrong questions: What were you wearing? Why were you there? What did you say? How much did you drink? Instead of asking: Why did he think he had license to rape?”
In legal terms, “Emily Doe” was not raped and her assailant was not convicted of rape. He was convicted of sexual assault. He did not rape her because he was caught; he did not rape her because he knew the difference between right and wrong and he was sociopathically choosing to do wrong, thus when he was caught he attempted to run away.
That declaration, “Alcohol ruined two lives that night” continues to echo in my mind. I fear that every similar case of sexual assault, and there are many that go unreported, will continue to receive from most people a rueful shake of the head and cluck of the tongue and similar declaration that alcohol ruins lives because it makes a person bad enough to get in trouble with the law.
Alcohol did not drag her from a frat party. Alcohol did not drag her unconscious from a frat party to a dumpster outside. (How romantic!) Alcohol did not undress her. Alcohol did not snap one or more photos of her unconscious half-naked body and text a photo of one of her body parts like a trophy, like an especially big fish caught on an outing. Alcohol did not attempt to rape her. A sociopath did, and his name is Brock Turner. May every sociopath who follows in his socipathic path receive similar public condemnation from now on.
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Well written Mark. That whole story and the sentencing made me so angry!! I’m glad you brought up the part about the alcohol, because it is true that society sees so much of this now that they don’t take it s, thaeriously. Even the comments of the father…good Lord! I often wonder when did right become wrong and wrong become right? Anyway, thank you for the post. I thought it was very insightful!
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The whole thing is just so disgusting and revolting. Thank you for posting this. Shame on the judge, shame on Brock Turner and his ignorant family, and shame on our society at large for allowing victims to be re-victimized through the media as well as the judicial system.
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The good swimmer gone bad egg. Ugh. He will indeed pay for this crime/these crimes both immediately and for the length of his public/working/residing life. As will his poor family. One can make new friends, but not new family. It will always remain between them. But that is all bearable compared to what he did to her, her shot at life, and her family. Indeed, though, alcohol consumption factors in: We do stupid things under the influence. Completely stupid and I’d say uncharacteristic things. All of us. And we take the worst risks, then, especially in believing that someone’s got our back! No UNtruer words were ever spoken, once alcohol dulls all perceptions. So, this HAS to also be a lesson about the dire pitfalls of overdrinking. I hope the messages all get through, not just drinking dangers, but what a terrible disrespect can do. That’s really the only good that can come from this demeaning hash he made of two lives.
Amen, Mark. Amen.
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