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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.

Mugshot of Brock Turner (AP/PA)
(AP/PA)

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.

Booking photo (AP/PA)
(AP/PA)

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

A change.org petition was launched to recall Judge Persky from service as a judge. In the months since, it has acheived over 1.2 million signatures.

Judge Persky (Jason Doiy/AP)
(Jason Doiy/AP)

Persky has since voluntarily moved to presiding over civil matters due to the pressure, but has launched a campaign to counter the Recall Persky petition.

June 9 2016

Joe Biden gives a speech (Kevin Hagen/AP)
(Kevin Hagen/AP)

Vice president Joe Biden releases an open letter to the victim of the Stanford attack, calling her a “warrior — with a solid steel spine” and saying he would continue to speak out against sexual assault on college campuses.

A few days later, students protest over how the university handled the case and similar issues at the University’s graduation exercises and the rape law in California.

A student hold ip a sign at a protest (D. Ross Cameron/AP
(D. Ross Cameron/AP)

August 24 2016

Stanford University posts an article on its website called Female Bodies and Alcohol, stoking up anger from students and others who see the piece, and a subsequent move to ban alcohol on campus, as victim blaming.

August 29 2016

As Turner’s release nears, California lawmakers passed a motion by 66 votes to none to ensure anyone convicted of penetrating someone who is unconscious will serve prison time, and will not be eligible for probation.

California State legislature (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)
(Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

In California, penetration with anything other than a penis is not considered rape, but sexual assault. This is the loophole which allowed Turner to escape a longer jail term and walk free after just three months.

Legislators have now closed this loophole, but too late for Turner’s victim.

September 2 2016

According to court documents, Turner will be released three months after his sentence began. As the date draws nearer, the decision to let him walk free is causing outrage online.

Many Twitter users are comparing Turner’s lenient sentence with harsher sentences and mistreatment by police for others, particularly people of colour.

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