Gina Florio
June 09, 2016 12:34 pm
Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office
Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office

It’s safe to say most people who spend time online have been shaken by the sexual assault case brought forth against Brock Turner. Turner, a 20-year-old former Stanford student, was arrested in 2015 for raping a woman who was unconscious. Two graduate students found him on top of the woman outside of a fraternity house at 1 a.m, and had to chase him down after he tried fleeing. The sexual assault victim (rather, survivor) has chosen to remain anonymous. Turner has been charged with three felony counts — assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated or unconscious person, sexual penetration of an intoxicated person, and sexual penetration of an unconscious person. By law, he could have faced up to 14 years in prison but his sentence has since been reduced to six months in a county jail with three years probation.

As unsettling as this case is in and of itself, it has gotten particularly difficult to stomach the past few days. Turner’s father wrote and released a letter to the judge presiding over his son’s case, asking him to have mercy. He pleaded by insisting, “His every waking minute is consumed with worry, anxiety, fear, and depression.” He blamed college and binge drinking culture for what his son did. He said Brock’s life would be “deeply altered forever,” and that prison time is “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action.”

What is entirely missing from this letter is the fact that his son did commit a heinous crime and devastated a young woman’s life forever. Brock’s father didn’t acknowledge his son’s responsibility in this ordeal either. While we read this and can’t help but feel upset toward the Turners for their lack of remorse, this letter points to an even bigger problem, and that’s the rape culture that lives on in our society.

There have been a lot of women stepping forward to speak up about the Brock Turner case and his father’s shocking letter. There’s one response in particular that shouldn’t be overlooked. On Medium, a writer by the name of Liz Taylor has written a piece called “An Open Letter To Dan Turner, Father of #BrockTurner.” After years of being quiet, she has come forward to share her experience of being raped 20 years ago. She writes:

“What pushed me out of hiding with your letter, Mr. Turner, is your role and response as a parent in this situation.”

She admits that this is not an easy subject for any parent to approach with their child, but it’s one that deserves care and attention. Liz was brave enough to write about what it was like to tell her mom about her rape, which she had kept entirely hidden for a long time.

“Like you and your son, [my mother] considered this, as you put it, the ‘unfortunate result’ of a binge drinking culture. After we left the police station she screamed at me for two straight hours. She yelled at me for drinking, yelled at me for putting myself in that position to begin with.”

Liz firmly tells Dan Turner — and everyone reading her powerful letter — that there is never a reason to blame a rape victim. Never, ever, ever. Out of the labels “Rape Victim” and not “Sex Offender,” she points out, “One of those labels was earned — the other was not.” By no means is she trying to get Dan Turner to take responsibility for his son’s actions, but she is astutely telling him that his response as a parent has a great impact not only on his son, but on everyone who is watching this case.

Brock needs to understand accountability, but when his own father feels he has been treated unfairly, how is he expected to get that message? You couldn’t control your son’s behavior, but he could. He could and he didn’t. He held all the power in that situation, and his victim had none.

That’s precisely why Brock Turner, and every other person guilty of sexual assault, should be convicted harshly. Liz doesn’t sugarcoat it.  She wrote:

“[Brock Turner] is a criminal who did a violent thing that will impact this young woman in ways she will never fully know for years to come.”

Liz says her mother has finally come around, has educated herself on the matter of sexual violence, and they’re at a place where she does her best to understand what Liz has gone through. She levels with Dan Turner, “It’s probably as tough for you to swallow as it was for my mother to make sense of my rape.” But she still holds him accountable for being the kind of parent who can make a positive difference, rather than help his son shirk responsibility.

All in all, Liz Taylor’s letter is a must-read, and we applaud her for taking the risk to write it. Our hearts go out to her, the woman raped by Brock Turner, and every other person in the world who has been sexually assaulted.

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