A story that sparked outrage over sexism, privilege and lenient treatment of sexual violence two years ago resulted in what many consider a victory for justice and for women.
California Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, who was excoriated for giving a six-month jail sentence to Brock Turner, a former Stanford University athlete convicted of sexually assaulting and attempting to rape an unconscious, severely intoxicated woman, was stripped of his office by a recall vote on Tuesday as a result of a campaign led by Stanford law Professor Michelle Dauber. But is this a good outcome? Some surprising voices are saying no.
Turner became a poster boy for American “rape culture” in 2016 after the media publicized the powerful impact statement by the victim. The outrage was exacerbated because Turner — who had been caught by two passers-by on top of a passed-out young woman outside a house where a party was taking place — seemed more self-pitying than remorseful, while his father infamously dismissed the crime as “20 minutes of action.”
Judge Persky was denounced for giving a privileged white male rapist a slap on the wrist. Yet the reality was rather more complicated. Persky had simply followed the recommendation of the probation officer, who felt that a light sentence was appropriate in this case given Turner’s youth, lack of criminal record and his own intoxicated state — as well as the victim’s apparent desire for leniency. That probation officer was a woman. When the story broke, Santa Clara public defender Molly O’Neal, an outspoken feminist and mother of a college-bound daughter, also defended the sentence as fair.