The internet is awash in rage today, well, it seems to be awash in rage everyday, but the focus of that rage has shifted from Presidential candidates, unisex bathrooms and shitty zoo related parenting to a letter written by the father of convicted Stanford University rapist Brock Turner.
For those not familiar with this story, Brock Turner is the Stanford University swimmer who was found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman while she was passed out cold.
The attack happened outside a college party, behind a dumpster, and was thankfully interrupted by two Swedish grad students who chased and detained the also drunk Brock Turner before he could make good his escape.
I say thankfully, because the attack was already brutal enough for the victim as it was. Who knows what would have happened had the rapist not been interrupted.
Here’s one of the many articles chronicling the story of what the rapist’s dad wrote to the court. In it is a link to the victim’s statement to the court, which is an amazing piece that should be required reading for every person entering college, man and woman alike.
Most of my readers know that I teach law at the police academy.
I like to have a sex crimes detective come and talk to my recruit classes and they always bring a victim of a sex crime attack to talk to the class with them. The victim’s story is always intense, and the negative aftermath for the victim is still evident, sometimes even decades later. The police recruits can’t help but face the ugly reality of the effects of a rape.
I have said many times that rape is the most disgusting crime to commit against another person, because the degradation goes beyond the physical pain and cuts so deeply into the victim’s spirit and soul that they’re often never the same person again. Even the victim of a homicide has the luxury of never having to relive the attack in their minds again.
I imagine that Brock Turner is an entitled douchebag, and his father is probably a person I would also label a douchebag, but is it necessarily fair to attack him so vehemently for trying to support his son?
What the man said in his letter to the court was completely ridiculous, sure. 20 minutes of action? That’s a disgusting line right there. Action? What does that imply? I’ll let you summon your own unflattering conclusions, but I get the vision of dad slapping his son on the back like he done good.
Still, the letter was meant to sway the court to be lenient on his son, and who among us wouldn’t have written a similar letter to keep our 20 year old lily-white son from going to prison?
“Oh hell no, Don! Not me, or anybody with any decency, that’s who wouldn’t!” I can hear many of you screaming.
Prison is rough, and they’re not sending out the same people they take in. Rarely is the end product better than the original.
That’s your son, and you’d do what you could to protect him, even though your son was, at least for one night, a monster.
It’s not only entitled, wealthy, white folk either.
At any time during most weeks, there are courtrooms all over the country holding sentencing hearings for suspects of all races and income levels, (though if we’re being honest, it’s mostly lower income minorities), for all sorts of heinous crimes. Behind many of these defendants in these various courtrooms are family, sometimes friends, parents and kids and sisters and brothers and others, all there to support their guilty loved ones.
They will speak or write letters on behalf of their beloved defendant, who has assaulted or murdered or yes, even raped another human being, because they are incredulous to the notion that their loved one could do such a thing.
It’s everyone else’s fault, really.
The victim shouldn’t have been where he was or did what she did. It’s the police too. The police are so often to blame for the guilt of their loved ones. Little Johnny shot at a police officer, yes, but they didn’t have to beat him up for it, no matter that he wasn’t going to go to jail nicely. They cling to something, anything really, that mitigates what they would otherwise have to face as truth, that their loved one is a criminal and has nobody to blame but themselves.
I’ve seen it dozens of times and I never know how to feel for the family of the defendant, because I’ve never been there.
I don’t know how I would be expected to feel about having a loved one who’s a convicted rapist, especially my own son.
The sins of the son are almost an indictment of the father, and that failure stings.
Do we wash our hands of them completely? Change the locks on the doors or even better, move while he’s in jail so he can’t find us when he gets out? Do I unfriend him on Facebook?
What’s the etiquette here?
Maybe behind closed doors, Brock Turner’s dad is a good dad. Maybe the guy who presumably put his own plans aside and paid shitloads of money for swim lessons and camps and trips, and who sat through swim meets and encouraged his son to be the best he could be talks to his boy about why he fucked up that night.
Maybe he tells him that gentlemen don’t pursue drunk women at parties for sex. Maybe he’s said, “What the hell were you thinking, Brock? You assaulted a woman who was passed out? Unconscious?! Who fucking does that!? You’re a pathetic human being, and you committed a terrible crime! You’re throwing all that you…. no, we, worked so hard for! You need to come to grips with how much pain you’ve caused her, the victim, as well as to your mom and me! We gave you every opportunity in life that we could afford and you’ve ruined it. You have nobody to blame but yourself! I feel like you’ve ruined this whole family forever!”
Probably not, but maybe.
Either way, what is said between father and son in private may never be our business, but what is said in a letter to a judge trying to keep one’s son from going to prison is exactly what this letter sounded like to me. It was all about “my boy” and how he’ll never be the same boy he’s known for twenty years again.
There’s probably truth in that, and if you think about that in another context, it’s sad.
Even if it’s completely the son’s fault, can we not have even a little bit of empathy for his mom and dad? It’s mostly a rhetorical question, but I say yes.
Sure, the letter is self-serving and extremely tackily written. You bought your son huge ribeye steaks? That’s something that wealthy people say and don’t even realize that they’re being douchey for saying it. Did he say that the consequences of binge drinking are “unfortunate results?”
Ouch, he sure did.
To suggest sexual assault is an unfortunate result of binge drinking is horrendous, and extremely degrading to the victim of not only this crime, but every single sexual assault victim before her.
But, this is the father of the rapist. His son is now a rapist. The boy they used to dress up as a cowboy or Mario for Halloween will now have to register as a sex offender. The consequences of that are far reaching, and probably the main reason they’re appealing this conviction.
My son the sex offender.
He has to come to grips with that, and I imagine that’s not easy, especially in the hoity-toity circle of friends I’m sure these people run with.
I’m not suggesting that we should all call Dan Turner and apologize for calling him out as an asshat, because the chances are good that he really is an asshat.
All I’m suggesting is that we try to understand that, at the end of the day, this man’s son has altered not only the son’s own life and the life of the victim, but that of his whole family’s too. They no doubt planned to travel to watch him compete as a collegiate athlete, and maybe one day they hoped to be in RIO or Tokyo and watch their son compete for the good old, U.S. of A.
Instead, they had to sit in a courtroom and listen to what a fuckup their son had become. It probably cost them a lot of money in the process.
He’s a rapist, not an Olympian or even a collegiate swimmer anymore, and I’m sure that’s a bitter pill for him to swallow.
That he completely disregarded the effect of his words on the victim, or even failed to acknowledge her pain or his own son’s culpability is not shocking, or even mildly startling in this age of instant gratification.
This whole ordeal reminded me of a sexual assault alleged here on a college campus in St. Louis that I don’t believe ever went anywhere. I vaguely recall the dad of this young lady insisting that the police look into this further, and maybe we did, but probably we didn’t because athletes. That the woman in this Stanford case got a conviction speaks volumes to me about what a warrior she must be and my hat is off to her.