The case of the sexual assault perpetrated against a Stanford University female student has sparked widespread outrage due to the ridiculous sentence given to the rapist. Discussions on the growing number of sexual assaults reported on college campuses are compounded here with the way that, yet again, the justice system has unveiled the prejudices held by judges.
In this case, no one can say that there were no witnesses to the assault the student and swimmer Brock Turner carried out behind a trash container against an inebriated female student. The two men who saw the crime pursued and caught Turner, who ran away upon realizing that he had been discovered, leaving his victim lying unconscious on the ground. The two witnesses said that, if Turner had been as drunk as he testified to be during his trial, he could not have run as fast as he did when he fled.
Judge Aaron Persky found Turner guilty of three felonies: intent to commit rape, sexual penetration with a foreign object of an intoxicated person and sexual penetration with a foreign object of an unconscious person. The maximum sentence would have been 14 years in jail, but the prosecutor asked for 6. However, the judge surprised everyone by giving Turner just 6 months, which could turn into 3 if he shows good conduct.
The ruling made by this judge, who apparently did not want to upset the life prospects of the rapist – a white young man from a wealthy family – is preposterous. If the decision causes indignation, more so does the concern expressed by Turner’s father that his son’s “20 minutes of action” may end up ruining his life and his future as a prospective Olympic swimmer.
In what planet do the judge, the rapist and his father live?
Surely in a planet where the life of a white young man is worth much more than that of a woman and, or a minority. Where the future of the rapist is more important than the life he destroyed and the long-term suffering he caused his victim in those 20 minutes.
If the young man in question would have been Latino, African-American or poor, he surely would not have received such leniency from the judge. This case is reminiscent of the intoxicated Texas teen who ran over and killed several people, and who also received an absurdly low sentence from a judge who considered that his parents’ wealth had a bad influence on him.
The general outrage regarding the sentence and the movement to remove the judge that has emerged are positive signs. Still, the fact that cases like these – in which rape is dismissed as trivial and justice is contingent on affluence or ethnicity – still exist shows that there is still a long road ahead.