Picture this, if you can. A 20-year-old Stanford University student named Brock Turner sexually assaults an intoxicated, unconscious woman next to a dumpster. This wasn’t just some disputed he said-she said. Turner was convicted in March on several counts. The prosecution argued for a six-year sentence, though the judge could have imposed 14 years.
Instead, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, in his slippery wisdom, shortened the sentence to six months with probation and registration as a sex offender. Turner is virtually exonerated. The woman’s life is forever changed.
Persky based his decision upon Turner’s age and lack of criminal history. It seems that his status as a potential Olympic swimmer also played into the judge’s decision. “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” the judged ruled. “I think he will not be a danger to others.”
Let’s review the implications. A 20-year-old college swimmer with no criminal record commits sexual assault (and very crudely; we’ll spare you the details). Was he just having a bad night? Anxious about an exam? Reeling from a bad break-up? Even if any of the above applied, does that mitigate sexual assault? Never.
Sexual assault is motivated by the need to control, not wanton opportunity. It doesn’t matter whether a woman is sober, has imbibed a few cocktails or passes out after drinking too much. And if a woman is unconscious, she can’t even object. This illustrates the essence of control.
A lot of people are rightly up in arms over Brock Turner’s heinous actions and Judge Persky’s twisted logic. For those who thought that the days of pampering the sex criminal and placing blame on the victim were obsolete, think again.
More than 190,000 people signed a Change.org petition to recall Persky, an elected California official, in the ruling’s wake. Judges are defending the judge. Family and friends are defending Turner. What’s wrong with this picture?
Sexual violence is a crime. Athletic achievement, lack of a criminal record and “I never meant to hurt her” are really beside the point. While there is something to be said for rehabilitating a criminal, first the criminal must be acknowledged as such, and the bar must be high for so unforgiving a crime. Judge Persky’s abject failure to acknowledge this terrible truth renders him unfit to serve and eviscerates our ethical universe. Truly, Judge Persky has raised cluelessness to a new level of opacity.
Copyright © 2016 by the Intermountain Jewish News