How the Stanford University sexual assault case continues to shame America
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Former Stanford university student Brock Turner will be released from prison on Friday after completing a three-month prison sentence for sexually assaulting a woman behind a rubbish bin on the university campus. His original sentence of six months was widely criticised for being too lenient and will now be even shorter as he has been rewarded for good behaviour with early release. The case triggered public outcry and soul-searching among the American and global populous, with issues pertaining to race, class and sex being dissected and discussed. So how did the case reach this outrageous end-point, where a man convicted of sexual assault is released early from a sentence which was extremely lenient in the first place? January 17 2015 Brock Turner attends a party at the Kappa Alpha fraternity house, Stanford University. He meets the 23-year-old victim and her sister at the party. Later Turner is discovered by two passers-by assaulting the unconscious victim behind the mobile rubbish bin in an alleyway near to the fraternity house. The Swedish men chase Turner and catch him, then call police. The day after Turner was arrested for the assault, he posts $150,000 bail for his release before the trial. At trial, Turner pleads not guilty. Much was made of the media portrayal of Turner as a swimmer for the university, with some articles including his race times as an accompaniment to the description of the attack. The legal system also failed to release Turner’s mugshot until after he was convicted, something which critics have said would not have been the case for a person who came from a poorer background. March 30 2016 Turner is found guilty of one count of assault with intent to rape, one count of penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object; and one charge of penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object. Two previous counts of rape had been dismissed earlier in the case due to DNA evidence findings. Californian state law defines rape as penetration by the penis only. June 2 2016 Judge Aaron Persky sentences Turner to six months in prison and orders that he be on the sex offenders’ register for life. Turner is placed in protective custody, serving his sentence away from other inmates due to the attention his case has received. Turner’s victim released the impact statement she read out in court, which quickly captures public attention, leading to an outpouring of support. In the 12-page statement she says: “You have dragged me through this hell with you, dipped me back into that night again and again.” “You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.” Dan Turner’s statement was widely condemned for stating that his son’s “life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life”. He later retracted the 20 minutes of action statement, stating through his lawyer: “I was not referring to sexual activity by the word ‘action.’ It was an unfortunate choice of words and I did not mean to be disrespectful or offensive to anyone.” June 6 2016
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