Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Under the influence

A while back, we were all shocked by the hit and run death of a cyclist in Baltimore, by a (now former) Bishop who was drunk.  The alcohol may have been the reason for her impairment but not an excuse for driving drunk and causing grievous harm.  She's in jail, as she should be, for years.

Apparently, though, if you are a privileged white athlete at Stanford, alcohol absolves you of personal responsibility and it's somehow acceptable that you have "20 minutes of action" (as his father actually put it) performing a violent sexual assault on an unconscious woman.  The judge gave this nice white man a mere 6 months since he's suffered already.  In return the rapist promises to talk about booze and promiscuity on campus.  The media has a winsome picture of this blond haired, blue-eyed, boy-man looking sad.

As his victim wrote in a searing letter, the problem isn't promiscuity.  It's CONSENT.   The whole thing is disgusting, not least of which what it says about any man who physically violates an unconscious woman's body.   (Go read her letter.  It is powerful.)

Interestingly there was a case in Tennessee this spring as well, where a former Vanderbilt football player was convicted of raping an intoxicated, unconscious woman.  He's going to get at least 15 years.   What's different in Tennessee?  Either their judges get it, or, black football players get different rules than white swimmers.  What do you think?

As one internet meme put it, we make laws against trans people using the bathroom to prevent women from being assaulted, but apparently we can't convict a man who actually assaults a woman.

Because, well, it's going to ruin his life.  Poor boy.

Talk about privilege.


8thday said...

I think the circumstances of the Vanderbilt rape was very different than Stanford, and not all of those rapists were black. And they DID convict the Stanford rapist.

The unfathomably ignorant comments of the father aside, do I understand that your anger comes from the 6 month sentence? And if so, I wonder what you believe the difference(s) would be for both the perpetrator and the survivor if the sentence had been 15 years?

IT said...

I'm dismayed by the Guardian's description here:
Although the victim and the prosecutor raised concerns about Turner’s hollow apology and his continued unwillingness to admit that he committed an assault – despite overwhelming evidence that the woman was unconscious – the judge said this should not count against him at sentencing.

Prosecutors asked for 6 years. By comparison, 6 months is a slap on the wrist. Given that he was discovered by witnesses, two men who by all accounts were deeply disturbed by what they saw him doing (one was reported to be crying in reaction), unlike most rapes there are actual witnesses. There is no question she was incapable of consent. As you say, he was convicted. But the perp has expressed no remorse and to me it seems he is getting an abnormally light sentence because of his privileged background.

Punishment and prison is not just for the perp,or revenge of the victim, it also is a signal to society of how seriously we take the crime. This light sentence tells Palo Alto that it's not so big a deal for a white college kid to abuse an unconscious woman's body, as long as he promises not to do it again.

IT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
8thday said...

I am not disagreeing with you about why he got a light sentence. In fact, I'm not disagreeing with anything. I am a rape survivor myself and have followed this story with great interest. What I am trying to understand is what people think a harsher sentence might have accomplished. And I am hearing you say that you believe the sentence should send a message to others about the severity of the crime.

I believe Heather Cooke was sentenced to 7 years in prison and she killed a man. A slap on the wrist because of who she was?

I guess in many ways it all depends on what one's expectations of the criminal justice system are. Punishing the criminal? Safeguarding society? Or re-educating and re-civilizing the offender?

I wonder how the victim in this case would define justice.

IT said...

Re. Cooke, I do not know the range or the norms of sentencing for her crime. I think if she'd gotten 6 months, there would have been an appropriate outcry.

We DO know that the Stanford Rapist could have gotten as many as 14 years and the prosecutors asked for 6. He won't even go to prison.

Additional commentary:
This is the problem. The notion that rapists aren't anything like Turner. They're not smart and accomplished. They're not polite and friendly. They're not friends or sons or classmates.

and this:

I'm a father of boys.

As such, I'm saving a letter written by the woman who was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner at Stanford University. I'll read it to my sons when their mother and I feel each is old enough.

IT said...

Also, I think that Cooke admitted her crime and expressed remorse. The Stanford rapist denies that assaulting an unconscious woman is a crime.

IT said...

Finally, here's a letter to the rapist's father, from another father:

The idea that your son has never violated another woman next to a dumpster before isn’t a credit to his character. We don’t get kudos for only raping one person in our lifetime. I don’t believe your son is a monster but he acted like one and that needs to be accounted for. To be sure, this decision is not the sum total of Brock’s life, but it is an important part of the equation and it matters deeply.

.....You love your son and you should. But love him enough to teach him to own the terrible decisions he’s made, to pay the debt to society as prescribed, and then to find a redemptive path to walk, doing the great work in the world that you say he will.

8thday said...

You are very proficient at posting other people’s opinions. And believe me, I have my own about many aspects of this case. But I was really just trying to get at YOUR opinion as to what you believe the difference(s) would be (if any) for both the perpetrator and the survivor if the sentence had been 15 years?

BTW - Ms. Cooke could have received 21 years, she had previous drunk driving arrests, and left the scene of the crash, leaving the man she killed to die on the sidewalk. But that is comparing apples to oranges. Just another interesting case of the justice not being blind.

IT said...

I don't know why you care what *I* think, but I'll bite.

don't think it should have been 15 years; the prosecutors asked for 6. I believe that going to actual prison for some number of actual years rather than jail for what will probably be 3 months, would have been important not only to the perpetrator, but also for society to see that there is a real punishment, a real cost to doing this evil act. This would state that his crime was serious, not "first one's a bye". And I think that signal would have helped the victim too, that some justice was done. I don't have a hard-and fast number, but I'm not a judge.

I don't believe in throw-away the key--that's more revenge than justice. the logic the judge used for 6 months sentence (youth booze) to me argues against the 15 years, but I think he erred too far on the side of mercy for the perp without allowing the victim or society a sense of justice.

There is nothing wrong with mercy, but.... Something happened. It cannot be undone. What was taken cannot be given back. We have a relatively crude system for payment in these situations which we might call retribution ("Retribution: punishment that is considered to be morally right and fully deserved"). But along with that, for th perp, should be rehabilitation. And ultimately, redemption ("Redemption: the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil; clearing a debt.") hopefully for all.

So the judge's sentence to me trivializes the act by cutting short those possibilities for victim, for society, and for the rapist.

Kevin K said...

If it was my son, I'd thank my lucky stars and his and get him into counseling. If this happened to one of my nieces, I'd want the rapist thrown in a cell and the key thrown away. That being said, this sentence seems light. This young man has scarred this young woman. He has also wrecked his own life.

JCF said...

I think the "20 minutes of action" comment shows that the apple didn't fall far from the tree. Does that father have any other minor children at home? Hello, CPS. Maybe THAT is the only way to break into this "boys will be boys" mentality, BEFORE anyone else is raped. [I also hope the victim is going to SUE the parents as well as her rapist!]

8thday said...

I was not trying to ‘bait’ you - I just know I have such a strong visceral reaction to these cases that I sometimes wonder what a “normal” reaction is. Yes, I can read all the newspaper reaction accounts like you often post but I was requesting something more personal from you. So thank you for taking the time to answer my question in such a comprehensive fashion.

I wholeheartedly agree that this sentence sent a very wrong message to society. In fact it has given license to any accomplished athlete, or other elite student, to basically get away with rape, as long as he is drunk first. Sad.

But I still struggle with what a lenient or severe sentence means to a victim and a perpetrator. Not in terms of a signal or revenge but more in terms of what they need to heal, which to me, is the ost important thing.

Kevin K said...


As for suing the parents for the actions of an adult child, there is no tort of "bad parenting". The dad does make you want to slap him.

IT said...

Thanks, 8th Day . I think we pretty much agree. It's not hard and fast. But his one, does not feel right. Especially because he won't admit he did anything wrong.