Between a Brock and a hard place


Words || McKenna Uhde

[Content warning: This article mentions sexual assault]

August started off with a huge development in the 2015 sexual assault case heard around the world. After over three years of court proceedings and sentencing, in a unanimous judgment, a California appeals court rejected the appeal of Brock Turner.

Last month, Turner’s lawyer, Eric Multhaup had argued before the 6th District Court of Appeal that there was lack of sufficient evidence to support the three convictions against Turner.

Turner, who sought to overturn his convictions stemming from a famous 2015 sexual assault of an unconscious woman, must now finish out his sentence and permanently register as a sex offender as a result of this judgment.

If you’re not exactly sure who Brock Turner is, perhaps you remember the cloud of outrage over sexual assault prosecution that loomed over 2015.

Turner, a Stanford University Swimmer, was charged in 2016 of three counts of felony sexual assault for which the prosecution asked for a minimum six-year sentence. This was denied, and Turner was sentenced to six months in county jail, of which he only served three because of overcrowding, and three years probation. This decision sparked outrage, causing millions of people around the world to oppose the sentence, claiming it was far too lenient. Petitions were additionally signed to change the laws that many thought let him off too easy.

Many wrote letters to Turner and the others involved, with Judge Aaron Persky, who oversaw the case, especially targeted. A majority of the protestors challenged his sentencing, arguing that it was too lenient as the result of judicial bias, due to Persky’s status as a white, upper-middle class male and Stanford lacrosse alum. As of June, Persky has been recalled.

The victim’s 2016 statement also gained traction as an incredibly brave and encouraging letter to other victims and future prosecutors. Within three days, the statement had gained over 8 million views and has even been presented at the United Nations.

The incredible response lead to not only the open discussion of the tragic rape culture on college campuses but has generated two laws in 2016 to clarify ‘rape’ and ensure minimum sentencing for offenders.

As for Turner, he had been at Stanford on a swimming scholarship and been preparing to join the USA Olympic team for the 2016 Rio games. USA Swimming has since stated that he would not be eligible for membership if he sought to reapply and would not be permitted in its ranks again under the zero-tolerance policy for sexual misconduct.

And let’s not forget the iconic moment when Turner was released from prison and the guards, who had kept him in solitary confinement for his own protection, handed him hundreds of hate mail letters as a farewell gift.

Turner has finished his time in county jail and is currently on probation in his parents’ Santa Clara home.

It may have taken three years to get here, but the conversation is finally opening up, laws are getting changed, and we are one step closer to improving how these issues are perceived and carried out.