The subject of sexual violence on campus is at the forefront of public consciousness once again this week as details spread online from the trial of a former Stanford University swimmer who was convicted of assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.
Brock Turner, 20, was arrested in January 2015 after two men riding bikes saw him "thrusting" on top of a motionless woman after a Palo Alto frat party.
Turner tried to flee when confronted by the men, who were graduate students at Stanford, but later said that the unnamed 22-year-old victim was conscious throughout the encounter.
Police say that she was found partially clothed and "completely unresponsive."
The Dayton, Ohio, native and Olympic hopeful withdrew from Stanford voluntarily after he was arrested and pleaded not guilty to three felony charges of sexual assault.
Tensions were high ahead of the "Stanford swimmer rape case" verdict when it came down more than a year later in March 2016 — and, for the most part, advocates for those affected by sexual violence seemed pleased when a California jury found Turner guilty of all charges.
And then came the sentence
Late last week, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to six months in county jail and three years' probation.
Persky has no record of judicial discipline and had his defenders when the Associated Press contacted officials in the country on Monday.
Barbara Muller, a criminal defence attorney who works two weeks a month in Persky's court, says he "is definitely one of the fairest judges" in the county.
"He considers all facts and is very thorough," Muller said. "He plays it right down the middle."
Still, some are urging for Persky's recall in Change.org petitions, and Stanford University law professor Michele Dauber, a friend of the victim, launched a campaign to remove Persky from the bench. Dauber didn't return phone calls and email inquiries from The Associated Press seeking comment Monday.
Considering that the maximum sentence Turner could have received was 14 years in state prison (and that he'll likely only serve three months behind bars in total, according to the San Jose Mercury News), his punishment was widely decried as a "slap on the wrist."
Those who think the US puts rapists in prison should Google that assertion.https://t.co/LgTo1T1rQm— @thereisnohurry
Actual definition of rape culture. https://t.co/v8new7BaLc— @bekgetman
The controversy heated up over the weekend after BuzzFeed News released the victim's full, 7,244-word-long courtroom statement online.
"One day, I was at work, scrolling through the news on my phone, and came across an article," reads an excerpt of the powerful and, at times, graphic piece. "In it, I read and learned for the first time about how I was found unconscious, with my hair dishevelled, long necklace wrapped around my neck, bra pulled out of my dress, dress pulled off over my shoulders and pulled up above my waist, that I was butt naked all the way down to my boots, legs spread apart, and had been penetrated by a foreign object by someone I did not recognize."
"And then, at the bottom of the article, after I learned about the graphic details of my own sexual assault, the article listed his swimming times," the statement continues. "She was found breathing, unresponsive with her underwear six inches away from her bare stomach curled in fetal position. By the way, he's really good at swimming."
As of Monday, the victim's deeply personal story had been viewed nearly six million times on BuzzFeed alone.
CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield further exposed the victim's words on Monday afternoon by reading her entire statement live on air for the news network's viewers.
Outrage has now been swelling over what critics consider to be a light sentence for days, more and more so as the victim's letter circulates.
Another letter, however, is inspiring perhaps even more passionate responses right now — one that was penned by Turner's father.
Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen confirmed to the Washington Post this morning that the letter, written by Dan Turner, is authentic.
It was submitted to court before Turner's sentencing last week and appears to have first been shared on Twitter by Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, who helped draft new policies for dealing with sexual violence on the university's campus.
"As it stands now, Brock's life has been deeply altered forever by the events of Jan 17 and 18," reads the statement, in which the elder Turner argues that his son shouldn't be sent to jail. "He will never be his happy-go-lucky self with that easygoing personality and welcoming smile."
And then, in what has become perhaps the most contentious part of the letter, the father attempts to explain why jail time isn't a fair punishment for his son.
"These verdicts have broken and shattered him and our family in so many ways," he writes of the convicted sex offender. "His 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."
You said, 'I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin a life.' A life, one life, yours, you forgot about mine. Let me rephrase for you, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin two lives. You and me. You are the cause, I am the effect. You have dragged me through this hell with you, dipped me back into that night again and again. You knocked down both our towers, I collapsed at the same time you did. If you think I was spared, came out unscathed, that today I ride off into sunset, while you suffer the greatest blow, you are mistaken. Nobody wins. We have all been devastated, we have all been trying to find some meaning in all of this suffering. Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrolment. My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.
See one thing we have in common is that we were both unable to get up in the morning. I am no stranger to suffering. You made me a victim. In newspapers my name was 'unconscious intoxicated woman', 10 syllables, and nothing more than that. For a while, I believed that that was all I was. I had to force myself to relearn my real name, my identity. To relearn that this is not all that I am. That I am not just a drunk victim at a frat party found behind a dumpster, while you are the All American swimmer at a top university, innocent until proven guilty, with so much at stake.
I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt, my life was put on hold for over a year, waiting to figure out if I was worth something.