In March, Brock Allen Turner, 20, was found guilty of sexual assault after he'd been caught raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster after a fraternity party held at Stanford, where he was a student athlete.
On the night of Jan. 18, two men on bicycles reportedly witnessed Turner lying on top of and thrusting into a seemingly unconscious woman. When Turner attempted to flee from the scene, the witnesses chased him down and restrained him until police arrived. Turner, whose blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit, was able to walk and talk. The woman he'd been raping, whose blood alcohol level was three times the limit, was not.
Turner faced a maximum sentence of 10 years, but prosecutors asked for six. During his sentencing yesterday, though, Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky decided that an actual prison sentence was a punishment far too grave for a man convicted of assault, intent to commit rape, and using an object to sexually penetrate an intoxicated person.
“A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him," Persky said. "I think he will not be a danger to others."
Persky reasoned that Turner's age and lack of a preexisting criminal record were proof enough that he only deserved six months in a county jail and followup of three years probation. In a column published in the Mercury News, writer Scott Herhold expressed similar sympathies towards Turner, arguing that Turner's new status as a sex offender would forever make his life worse off.
"That effectively closes many career avenues," Persky said. "It's a permanent blight."
Herhold is right that Turner's life will be permanently changed in the wake of his actions. But that's the point.
We cannot know for sure how often sex offenders reoffend given the way that we as a society treat sexual assault. Current statistics suggest that only 12-24% percent of convicted sex offenders will assault people again, but those figures may be drastically off because of how infrequently rapes are reported to the police and the fact that when they are reported, authorities are not always helpful.
Compare Turner’s six month jailhouse sentence to the fact that his victim will have to live with the psychological consequences of his attack for the rest of her life.
"You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today," she said during his sentencing yesterday. "I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt."