On March 15, 2014, former University of Colorado student Austin Wilkerson offered to take care of a woman who drank too much while celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. That was really nice of him, until he raped her while she was unconscious.
In a university pre-trial examination, Wilkerson fully admitted that he was “pissed off” at the “fucking bitch” because she had repeatedly turned down his advances while she was awake and able to do so. Even worse, the woman was rude and “wasn’t giving much of a response” while Austin violated her unconscious body. So what did Austin do? He masturbated onto her stomach as she slept.
As usual, when time for the trial rolled around, Austin had a whole new recollection of the event (Brock Turner, anyone?) and told a completely different story. When Austin took the stand, he was adamant that the woman was not drunk at all. In fact, according to Wilkerson, she “engaged passionately” and even made “pleasure sounds.” He testified that they had a “fun, sexy, consensual sexual encounter” even though months earlier he actually called her a “fucking bitch” who rebuffed his advances while she was conscious.
Which story is it, Austin? I’m confused. Oh, wait. You’re doing that thing where you lie to get out of trouble.
Wilkerson’s victim stood in court and asked the judge to “have as much mercy for the rapist as he did for me that night.” Caryn Datz, the attorney for the victim, told the judge that Austin Wilkerson felt a sense of entitlement. “He felt entitled to rape her, he felt entitled to get away with it, and he felt entitled to lie on the stand about it,” she said.
District Judge Patrick Butler seemed to agree with Datz. However, he “struggled with whether or not to put Wilkerson in prison.” Butler went on to say that he wondered what kind of treatment Wilkerson would get in prison. He explained, “I don’t know that there is any great result for anybody. Mr. Wilkerson deserves to be punished, but I think we all need to find out whether he truly can or cannot be rehabilitated.”
Can the victim be rehabilitated? What about the way the victim was treated? What about the fact that someone actually pretended to care about her wellbeing but raped her instead? Does that matter at all?
Isn’t that what prison is for? Punishment and rehabilitation? Judge Butler, you sat and listened to a victim ask you to punish her rapist - someone who committed a horrific act against her - and here you are, worried about how the perpetrator is going to handle prison. Perhaps the question you should ask is this: How is the victim going to handle the rest of her life knowing that she was violated and her assailant didn’t get the punishment he deserved?
In court, the victim stated that her life was ruined socially, psychologically, academically, and financially. Mr. Wilkerson also gave a statement in court in which he admitted that he had indeed sexually assaulted the victim. He apologized before the judge; however, that apology was made after the victim had left the courtroom.
So where is the problem? Where is the confusion? Rape is a crime. Austin Wilkerson fully admits that he did rape the victim. However, the judge sentenced him to only 20 years of probation and two years of work release jail time. That means that Wilkerson is allowed to leave jail to go to school and work.
Much like the Brock Turner case, multiple people wrote letters on behalf of Austin Wilkerson. Those letters included statements such as:
"The most traumatic incident that Austin has faced is this sexual assault case."
"We urge you to consider this young man's life and his future in your sentencing."
"I think he is a young man that will go far in this world if not defined by this one incident.”
The victim was a young woman who thought she would also go far. Although she most certainly has the potential to do so, let’s re-word the above statements to show the impact that Austin Wilkerson has (not had) on her life:
"The most traumatic incident that the victim has faced is this sexual assault case."
"We urge you to consider this young woman's life and her future healing in your sentencing."
"I think she is a young woman that will go far in this world if she can get closure regarding her rape.”
See, it’s not about you, Austin. It’s not about Austin, Judge Butler. It’s about a person - a human being - who was raped and treated like a piece of garbage by someone who said he was going to take care of her. He did not take care of her. And you, Judge Butler, did not take care of her. You took care of Austin Wilkerson. You took care of a rapist.