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Innocent yet proven guilty: political correctness in the Stanford rape case


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In the last month the trial of Stanford swimmer Brock Turner and all the gruesome details of his sexual assault of another student hit the news. Turner was found guilty of sexual assault on three counts: assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated person; sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object; and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.

For these charges Turner was sentenced to a startlingly lenient sentence of six months in prison with probation.

The focus has been on the perpetrator rather than the victim, as his sentence has been reduced to a mere three months incarceration, with Judge Persky claiming that a more lengthy prison sentence would have a "severe impact on him."

Persky claims that, to an extent, he trusted Turner’s account of the events and “took him at his word” when he suddenly seemed to recall a vague utterance of possible consent from the victim, and believes him to have expressed a “genuine feeling of remorse.” Media coverage of the case has been dominated with the smiling face of Turner's Stanford University photo, his athletic achievements and boy-next-door image. 

Several of his friends and family members provided statements and letters, claiming that it was not possible that the defendent could have committed the crimes that he was accused of. One of his childhood friends claimed the case to be a "misunderstanding", and also suggested that as rape is a "very sensitive subject" this incident is a case of "political correctness" gone wild. The friend claims Turner is innocent, despite the guilty charges brought against him.

It seems that the controversy surrounding these statements has overshadowed the very real emotional, psychological and physical damage that the victim suffers, as she claims that the words from his loyal band of supporters have "ignited a tiny fire" in her. A greater focus has been laid upon the "party culture" of university life and the students' drunk recklessness as an excuse for the committing of a crime.  

It is here that one speculates the social power of the perpetrator, and how his class position influences his case. 

Within her powerful defense that she read to Turner in court, the victim pointed out that "I think the end is where you list your extracurriculars to cancel out the sickening things that've happened", and it seems that his privileged position and unpredictable behaviour have gained more coverage in the media that the actual crime that he has committed. The victim felt "defenseless", and as if she had "no voice" to stand up against Turner's very powerful legal team. 

It is worth considering whether an individual with less academic potential, less money in the trust fund and less athletic prospects would invite so much attention, or even make the news in the first place. I question whether Persky would have considered the effect of a custodial sentence on an individual of lower class, and whether that individual’s epiphanies concerning the consent of the individual would have been taken as seriously as they have within this case.

It is concerning how a privileged position can so strongly influence the outlook on such a horrific crime as rape, and how one can doubt an individual's guilt because of his class position. No matter the gender, class, people power or social influence of the perpetrator or victim, rape is rape. Turner has committed a crime that has and will continue to have torturous effects on the victim for the rest of her life, and it’s astounding that this special treatment has been allowed to go on for so long.

Turner's father claimed that the case was simply a misunderstanding, but a greater focus must be placed upon his own misunderstanding of the seriousness of his son’s actions.

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