When Justice Fails — Turn Anger into Action
by Katherine White - One with Heart Program Coordinator
Brock Turner, convicted rapist, receives only six months in county jail. Sentencing guidelines say he should receive 2 – 14 years in prison. This miscarriage of justice has caught fire in social media and now there is a recall campaign against Aaron Persky, the Santa Clara judge who identifies so closely with the perpetrator that he justifies the light sentence saying that going to prison would “have a severe impact on him” and blames the victim because she was drunk at the time of the attack.[i]
Social media has changed the game a bit for officials and politicians who exercise their power irresponsibly. When their behavior and decisions show reckless disregard for the laws and principles they have sworn to uphold it is not so easy to hide behind closed doors; we just may hear about it. Out of every 100 sexual assaults only 2 offenders ever spend a day in jail, so Brock, with his six-month sentence, is, by old boy standards – unlucky. But considering how hard it is to get a rape charge to trial, much less get a conviction, it is truly an insult to justice when the judge refuses to mandate a reasonable punishment.
These men, Brock Turner, Aaron Persky, and Brock Turner’s dad, who is so clueless that he describes the assault as “20 minutes of action”, are nothing new. Their ‘boys will be boys’ attitude about rape is old and tired. The real story here is the woman who survived the assault. The impact statement she wrote is so articulate, detailed, personal and heartfelt that it should be required reading for every incoming college student; everyone who works with survivors of sexual assault; everyone who still believes in that nebulous ‘gray area’; and everyone who thinks drugs or alcohol somehow mitigate the suffering and humiliation of rape.
When justice fails it is not the end of the line. The next step is to turn anger into action. There is a link below to 5 petitions calling to remove judge Aaron Persky from the bench.[ii] If you think that is a step in the right direction you can sign one or more. I encourage people to take the time to read the victim statement, also linked below, [iii]and pass it on. It has already opened the door for other survivors to tell their story, which is an important part of healing. It articulates the reality of rape so powerfully that it cuts to the core of victim blaming, and raises awareness, compassion and understanding. Collective vision and sustained action keep us moving toward justice; toward a time when the old boy culture that protects Broke Turner and Aaron Persky is obsolete.
[i] Levin, Sam and Walters, Joanna. June 6, 2016. Judge in Standford sexual assault case faces recall effort over light sentence. The Guardian.
[ii] Crawford, Hillary E. 5 Petitions to Unseat Judge Aaron Persky To Sign if you Believe His Broke Turner Decision Was Unfair. June 9, 2016. Bustle.
[iii] June 6. Stanford sexual assault case: victim impact statement in full. The Guardian.