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National

I was Raped. And I Believe The Brock Turner Sentence Is a Success Story [opinion]

[injusticetoday.com]

On the morning of June 12, 2016, a small plane circled over Stanford University’s commencement ceremony trailing a banner reading, “Protect Survivors. Not Rapists. #PerskyMustGo.”

The plane’s voyage was commissioned by feminist group UltraViolet to protest former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner’s six-month sentence handed down by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky in 2016 for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman on campus the previous year. The sentence ignited an outcry and an effort to recall Judge Persky. Over 1 million people have signed a petition to remove Judge Persky, and even members of Congress have joined the chorus. Now, Santa Clara County Assistant District Attorney Cindy Hendrickson is running to replace Judge Persky should his recall go before voters.

There have been a few voices criticizing the recall movement. Some have warned that the effort could threaten judicial independence by pushing judges to buckle under pressure from public opinion in individual cases. Others have warned that the recall could scare judges into giving harsher sentences to all defendants, which would likely disproportionately affect underprivileged and minority defendants. And others have pointed out that the recall effort creates a tension between feminist anti-rape advocacy and other progressive, anti-carceral social justice movements.

But with few exceptions, those critical of the scrutiny of Judge Persky have not defended Turner’s sentence. I will do so here. I am a rape victim engaged in a lawsuit against the Memphis Police Department for systematically failing to investigate rape cases and I believe that Judge Persky’s sentence was just.

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  1. 1984

    I really admire objective writing. It has become so rare. So many writers are only looking for what will go viral. That is sad.

    Spin stories only create and support crazy and un-constitutional actions.

    Judge Aaron Persky needs to hold his ground – His decision was based on information at hand and recommendations of the legal system. I find it so odd that the protesters have no interest in “all” the information. Without being properly informed a rational course of action cannot be made, at all.

  2. Dustin

    I wholeheartedly agree with the writer’s stance on that judge. I’ve made no secret of my opinion that most judges just rubber stamp the DAs recommendation (always the maximum) and was pleasantly surprised to find there is one judge in the US that actually uses his own discretion, as is so often authorized but rarely used.

    I just as wholeheartedly disagree with much of the rest of the article though, particularly the remark about how sexual assault convictions are supposedly rare. The fact that there are around 875,000 on the registry belies that claim.

    The lament that some accusers were prosecuted for making false claims I find a bit outlandish; that almost never happens. Lena Dunham was never prosecuted. Ditto, the women who accused the Duke La cross team and the head of the IMF. Brian Banks’ accuser had to return the award she won from the college she sued after he went to prison, but was never criminally charged. There may be a few false accusers that have been prosecuted, but prosecutors normally won’t, as a matter of politics.

    If someone makes a sexual assault claim that cannot be proven, of course I would leave them alone. But if they knowingly make a false claim and it is proven false, I think they should be prosecuted, considering the resources spent on pursuing the false claim and the effects on the person accused.

    Overall, it was a good article. It’s nice to see a voice of reason in a media that otherwise only strives stoke outrage.

    • NPS

      “I just as wholeheartedly disagree with much of the rest of the article though, particularly the remark about how sexual assault convictions are supposedly rare. The fact that there are around 875,000 on the registry belies that claim.”

      I get what this author means. Her definition of sexual assault is rape by force, and yes, these convictions are rare. Every woman that I know who has reported a rape stated that they felt they were in the wrong. The police treated the rape like they were asking for it. Their reports were never investigated let alone resulting in a conviction. So I believe the author’s claim.

      The number on the SOR lists is irrelevant. Think about it. 875,000 out of the hundreds of millions of people who have lived and died since the registry was created 75 years ago. Secondly, do you actually believe all 875,000 are on the registry for a sexual assault such as rape by force? Take a look at all the third-party SOR lists. Most are on there for what is a statutory offense or non-contact offenses. The number on there for rape by force is extremely low.

      • Dustin

        First, while the overall article regards forcible rape, I don’t think the author defines sexual assault as rape by force. Based on how articulate her article is, I’m sure if she meant to state that forcible rape convictions are rare she wouldn’t have used the term “sexual assault” which includes a plethora of even non-contact offenses. While it is common in writing to avoid overusing using the same word or phrase, I don’t see how doing so in this instance would have affected the overall context of the article.

        Second, the public registry is only 20-some years old (the LE-only registry created in the 40s was nowhere near as debilitating as the public one, but that’s a separate discussion). Even weeding out registrants who are on for non-sex offenses and erring on the side of caution, one has to assume there were at least half a million sex offense convictions. Accordingly, the number of registrants is far from irrelevant in this discussion.

        The next question is how is how to define “rare”. The dictionary defines it as not occurring very often or not found in large numbers. Is the less than 1% of RCs committing another sex offense rare? I would say so. Does the 12% rearrest rate of RCs mean such rearrests are rare? I would argue not. Maybe unusual or out of the ordinary, but not exactly rare. Accordingly, what is truly “rare” is situation dependent and must be construed accordingly. In that light, half a million of anything cannot be considered “rare.”

        Nowadays mere accusations, even recanted ones, are proof sufficient to convict. It used to be that corroboration was required to earn a sex offense conviction and said corroboration had to be inconsistent with the innocence of the accused. I would agree that prosecutions of sex offenses from those days were rare. But convictions from those prosecutions, even if few, were not.

        I’ve also known victims over the years who have been mistreated by investigators. But at the same time, I didn’t think the underlying reason was to vilify the accuser, but to 1) find the legally required corroboration and 2) weed out false accusations. It’s sad that many accusers were so abused, but the legal requirements for corroboration shouldn’t have changed, only the means of meeting them. And whittling out false claims is critical, especially in sex offense matters, particularly considering the damage done to defendants by the accusation – false or not – and the growing inability to defend themselves against them.

        This is not justice, it’s political expedience. We cannot forget that laws are only intended to solve societal problems (and most do a poor job at that), not individual ones. Laws written specifically to address individual matters cause ludicrous hardships to the rest of society as a whole. The registry is probably the best example of that.

        • NPS

          Good points all around. However, I can’t help but feel that having a women’s perspective in this may be lost in your response; especially when that perspective is from one who has been raped herself. When we talk of sexual assault, especially when we have been survivors of rape, we don’t think of a pat on the butt or a dirty joke as assault; we mean forcible penetration. Though I get your point on the issue of what the law defines as rape, it’s still flawed especially when the victim is a woman. When the victim is a minor, all it takes is an accusation without a shred of physical evidence to get a conviction. When an adult woman makes an accusation, her word is immediately scrutinized and her character questioned; reports rarely reach the DA’s desk.

        • Dustin

          The perspective of rape victims is not lost in my opinion. I have known rape victims and assault victims over the years, many of them dear friends to this day. I’ve shared their frustrations with the system and have tried to convince them to proceed, usually to no avail, and was heartbroken when they decided not to. That many, if not most, sex offenses come down to “he said/she said” is very unfortunate for the victim, no doubt. Many, many genuine rapists and abusers have gone free because of that and it bothers me as much as anyone else, more so when I know the victim.

          But until there is one person born who has never, without exception, told a single lie at any point in his/her life, I will never be persuaded that the “she said” argument is sufficient to convict. If it is – and in many places it already is – then the way is paved for rampant false accusations and subsequent convictions for revenge, to avoid liability in another matter, career enhancement, or even amusement (I know of examples of all, some personally, and might make a separate thread about them later).

          A sex offense accuser’s claims and character should be thoroughly scrutinized. But the scrutiny shouldn’t be cruel. Many investigators are unnecessarily confrontational, to be sure. But many others are over-accommodating. Either way, if the end result of the investigation is predetermined, the entire investigation is pointless and worthless. An investigator being skeptical is not being derisive. He/she is being a responsible seeker of truth, whatever that may be.

          All other crimes require some form of corroboration (a missing or dead body for murder, proof of ownership for theft, ashes for arson, etc.); I see no reason sex crimes should not. That includes those where the victim is a minor. False accusations are made in custody disputes, unfit parenthood claims, vengeance, and so on. Not to mention the scant attention of the effects on those minors when false accusations are made on their behalf. There is nothing civil, reasonable, or fair about imprisoning one single innocent person to “ensure” the guilty ones don’t go free.

        • stretchy and sketchy

          You say sexual assault includes a PLETHORA of non-contact offenses. I can’t even think of a one and no examples were given at all. In California, it means physically attacking someone, getting them to physically sexually attack themselves or kidnapping them physically for sex. When the author said sexual assault, she meant it to mean sexual physical assault, not going as far as rape, but involving sexual assault touching. Rape still being sexual assault, but the more extreme version that it gets A SEPARATE CATEGORY OF ITS OWN. Now, if “touching” is redefined to mean non-physical “touching” as in someone touched your soul or someone’s action “touched your heart” while not involving physical contact, then I can see your point, but would still think the logic a bit sketchy and stretchy.

          //leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=243.4.&lawCode=PEN

        • Dustin

          By “plethora” I meant variety. I always thought that’s what it meant, despite never having looked it up. My mistake, and thank you for pointing it out.

          As you point out, the term “sexual assault” varies by state. In mine, things like viewing cp or unauthorized internet contact with minors is a subcategory of the sexual assault statute. I acknowledge that I misinterpreted the context of the article writer’s statement.

          Nonetheless, I still dispute the claim that sexual assault convictions, however defined, are “rare” for the reasons already stated.

        • Maybe you know better

          I was looking at different states and couldn’t find one where sexual assault means non-contact offenses. It’s kind of murky to say that Georgia considers non-contact offenses as sexual assault. They are not displayed that way on third party sites. All laws pertaining to all sex offenses are listed under the title “Sexual assault laws” header in a report I saw. Under this title header , all the laws are mentioned such as, for example, “harboring a sex offender”, meaning harboring an absconding SO. It would be hard to believe that harboring a sex offender would be considered sexual assault. Or the crime of giving false information to the police about a sex offender’s whereabouts. Of course, states can consider any crime any classification they want. But I have yet to see one that indicates non-contacts are sexual assault as far as dissemination to the public of this crime classification.

      • Tim Moore

        Read her other article on rape kits. She is saying the police simply don’t care about victims or defendants. There is a backlog of rape kits thrown in car trunks and lost in closets. This means some are just picked out and convicted without proper evidence against them and others who are guilty are let go because the victim is considered unworthy. Remember, a greater percent of police are themselves abusers than is the norm. Yes, when the police do get a defendant into court his goose is already cooked, his life over, but also there are many offenders who never make it that far because of police corruption or just plain laziness. I can see how both are true. Those kinds of contradictions are symptoms of corrupt systems.

        • Dustin

          I’ve heard of issues like that before, and am equally frustrated by them. Pretty sad that a thorough, competent investigation only seems to happen depending on the economic or political status of the accuser or the accused. But it doesn’t change my opinion that all sex offenses should be corroborated, or that negating the corroboration requirement is political expedience at the expense of justice.

  3. T

    It doesn’t make any since that someone being sentenced for a crime is consider a success story.

    • New Person

      A judge had discretion upon the punishment levied upon Mr. Turner. The punishment was tailored around this individual as opposed to the one size fits all position, which is the akin to the lifetime registry for California. Also that the judge and author identified just how the registry alone can impact a life, to which the public does not see the registry as any hindrance to a normal life.

      But now California just passed legislation, according to the article, that judges no longer have discretion on punishment and there are now mandatory punishments. Which means the judges are rendered useless in this capacity. If you ever watched previous Sex Offender Conferences online, they state that making punishment mandatory takes power away from judges to make individual punishments one a per case basis.

      • Dustin

        Persky is a good example of the disparity of electing criminal court judges, and I’m sure there are countless others. Voter turnout for judges is notoriously low. Few of the population outside of cops, lawyers and career defendants (those who spend their lives running in and out of jail for various minor offenses) have actually voted for their criminal court judges or even know who they are. Discretionary rulings on procedure and evidence are swayed by the date and prospects of their next election first and fairness to the parties second, often a distant second.

        Courts are ostensibly supposed to settle matters of law. Politics are supposed to be settled at the ballot box. Federal judges are appointed for life specifically to prevent rulings determined by the politics of the day, which are at times in conflict with the law. State criminal court judges don’t have that luxury or handicap, depending on the case.

        There’s nothing to impeach Persky on – he used his discretion as authorized. Disagreement with how he used that discretion is not cause to remove him from the bench. His reelection is unlikely unless it’s several years from now and he and Turner are forgotten after some other “outrage” and/or he runs unopposed. The latter seems doubtful as well. There are plenty of lawyers willing to leave behind their (often failed) practice and settle into a life of rubber stamping ludicrously and unnecessarily wordy documents while wearing a black robe, even if it is considerably more modest than the living they dreamed of in law school.

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