Former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner attracted national attention when he was convicted in March of 2016 of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman in 2015, yet sentenced to only six months in prison. Turner only served three of those six months, turning an already unjustly short sentence into a prime example of the blindspot the American judicial system has toward sexual assaulters and rapists.
The sentence was so controversial that it led to the successful recall of the judge who handed down the sentence, Aaron Persky. Turner still decided to appeal the sentence, unsuccessfully arguing he only intended to have "outercourse" with the victim. After losing the appeal, Turner will have to register as a sex offender forever, unless he decides to appeal his case to the next level — the Supreme Court.
Turner's appeal case has "no merit," according to the Santa Clara County court.
In his appeal, Turner claimed there was unsubstantial evidence against him. The evidence includes two witnesses, one of whom tackled Turner and kept him in the area until police arrived on the scene. There are also statements from paramedics and hospital workers who saw the physical signs of the assault on the victim and examined her blood alcohol content. Turner himself confessed to a detective that he undressed and penetrated the victim. The evidence is stacked against Turner, and there is no way any credible judge would overturn his sentence.
It's time for Turner to give up on his appeal.
The original six-month sentence was enough of an outrage, but with Turner only serving three months of the sentence and having to register as a sex offender for life as part of his punishment, Turner's appeal seems even more outlandish. It is also an example of how perpetrators can be emboldened by the blind spots in the American judicial system where sexual assault is concerned.
The reality is that Turner deserved to serve a longer sentence, and he should be thankful that his privilege as a white athlete at a prestigious school allowed him to skate by with such a light punishment for an atrocious crime.
The reason he got such a short sentence is that the judge feared the effect prison would have on Turner. His continual appeal of the case only further displays this privilege as he feels entitled to getting away with violating an unconscious woman. The subsequent recall of Judge Aaron Persky, the first successful recall in California in 86 years, should show Turner that the public disagrees with his sentence. It should also lead to a broader discussion around the way that rape culture affects the criminal justice system's ability to prescribe adequate sentences.
There is a broader issue regarding the punishment of perpetrators of sexual assault.
According to RAINN, "out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, 995 perpetrators will walk free." That is a huge, almost unconscionable, injustice. There are already low rates of reporting sexual assaults as only 23% are reported to police, but to see such low rates of punishment is discouraging to any victim who may want to come forward. Even if victims do choose to come forward, the rape kit backlog is making it even harder for justice to be served. This means that crucial DNA evidence is not being tested, and in some cases, this could allow the statute of limitations to pass.
Brock Turner did get a sentence, becoming one of the 0.05% of sexual assault perpetrators to be convicted of a felony. Still, his sentencing cannot be considered just as sexual assaulters like Turner deserve more than three months in jail and having to register as sex offenders.
The Brock Turner case should never fade from the American consciousness.
It's been three years since Turner's sentencing, and there is still a broader discussion to be had about his case and its intersections with white privilege, rape culture, student life, and the criminal justice system. It's important not to lose sight of the flaws this case exposed, and to ensure changes are made so that no perpetrator is ever able to get away with a crime as easily as Brock Turner did.