Brock Turner has once again made his way into the news cycle, this time for his attempt to appeal his conviction of sexual assault. Turner’s lawyer argued to a three judge panel of California’s Sixth District Court of Appeals in San Jose that Turner only intended to engage in outercourse -- defined as a sexual act other than vaginal penetration -- and therefore his conviction should be overturned.
Basically, Turner’s legal team argued that because Turner stayed clothed when he undressed his victim and put his fingers in her, his actions did not add up to the attempt to rape he was convicted of. Outercourse as a defense for assault is so antiquated and ridiculous I sort of can’t believe I have to write about it for anything other than a satire website.
According to the New York Times, the term is significant because of the way sexual assault was defined in California law at the time of Turner’s conviction. Previously, the law had defined rape as an act of sexual intercourse. Regardless, the jury found Turner guilty of sexual penetration with a foreign object of an intoxicated person, sexual penetration with a foreign object of an unconscious person, and intent to commit rape even as the California law defined it at the time.
Even if Turner had only intended to have outercourse that night, he still committed rape. He engaged in sexual activities with a woman who was unable to and did not consent to them. So, the sudden argument that he didn’t intend to have vaginal intercourse with her feels arbitrary and cruel. There was no argument for outercourse to the jury.
The former Stanford swimmer and current convicted rapist made a splash when Judge Aaron Persky handed him a lenient sixth months of jail time when the maximum could have been fourteen years. His victim penned a breathtaking open letter to Turner that went viral and detailed her experience in the aftermath of the rape.
Turner only served three months of his sentence before he was released back into the world where he continues to waste our time by refusing to accept that there are consequences for one’s actions. Here is the thing: Turner got off easy, like shockingly easy. So, why does he refuse to just accept that he did something wrong and deserves to be punished? Why is it so hard for him to just admit he hurt someone, accept his punishment, apologize, and slink back into whatever sewer he crawled out of?
The punishment for rapists has been embarrassingly light, and shows that we still have a long way to go when it comes to taking sexual violence seriously. When Turner was convicted - there was all kinds of talk about how jail time or registering as a sex offender would have a severe and negative impact on him. But what is going to be enough to show that rapists deserve to be punished? Violence toward women and sexual assault have been linked with other forms of violence such as mass shootings and murder. One in five college aged women will be assaulted by the time they graduate. Every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted in the United States, and only 6 out of every 1,000 rapists serve any prison time at all.
The panel of judges had 90 days to make a decision about Turner’s outercourse appeal. In the ruling issued yesterday morning, the three justices unanimously upheld the judgment against Turner. Associate Justice Franklin D. Elia was quoted saying “I absolutely don’t understand what you are talking about,” after hearing the appeal. In response to the arguments presented by Turner's lawyers, the justices wrote that they were "not persuaded ... defendant argues none of his convictions is supported by sufficient evidence. That argument lacks merit."