Sexual Assault at Stanford University
On January 17, 2015, “Emily Doe” went to a fraternity party at the Kappa Alpha house on the campus of Stanford University. In a statement that Emily read in court, she said:
“On January 17th, 2015, it was a quiet Saturday night at home. My dad made some dinner and I sat at the table with my younger sister who was visiting for the weekend. I was working full time and it was approaching my bed time. I planned to stay at home by myself, watch some TV and read, while she went to a party with her friends. Then, I decided it was my only night with her, I had nothing better to do, so why not, there’s a dumb party ten minutes from my house, I would go, dance like a fool, and embarrass my younger sister. On the way there, I joked that undergrad guys would have braces. My sister teased me for wearing a beige cardigan to a frat party like a librarian. I called myself “big mama”, because I knew I’d be the oldest one there. I made silly faces, let my guard down, and drank liquor too fast not factoring in that my tolerance had significantly lowered since college.
The next thing I remember I was in a gurney in a hallway.”
Brock Allen Turner was born in Dayton, Ohio on August 1, 1995. He is the third and last child of Dan, a civilian contractor for the United States Air Force, and Carleen, a registered nurse. Brock attended Oakwood High School, where he won state titles in several freestyle swimming events. His mother was instrumental in his quickly flourishing swimming career, often organizing events for his swim team. In September of 2014, Turner was admitted to Stanford University on a swimming scholarship.
Brock Turner has been painted in the media as a clean cut, determined, hard-working student. Articles that address the circumstances surrounding this case are very quick to point out his impressive swim times and records. He has been portrayed as a young man who simply “made a mistake that has ruined his life.” Although his family and the media would have you believe he has only made this one “mistake,” there’s a lot that you most likely don’t know about Brock Turner.
According to The Mercury News, Turner does not have the squeaky clean reputation that his family and legal counsel work so hard to convince the jury of. As a matter of fact, investigators have found evidence of quite the opposite upon examining text messages on Turner’s phone.
In text messages from July 2014, Turner spoke to a friend about taking LSD and Ecstasy together. In December 2014, he texted a friend to ask for marijuana.
In November 2014, Turner and a group of friends were seen drinking beer while walking across the Stanford University campus. When the police yelled for the group of boys to stop, Turner ran. The police took off after the group of scattered students and caught one of them who then called Turner and told him to return to speak to the officers. Turner was given a ticket for being a minor in possession of alcohol.
It is understandable that most teenagers experiment with drugs and alcohol. However, these texts shed light on the fact that Brock Turner is not the innocent, wholesome child that he has been portrayed as by his supporters.
The same article from The Mercury News exposes even more alarming information about Turner. On January 10, 2015, he was at a party at the Kappa Alpha fraternity house at Stanford, the hunting ground where he found his victim, “Emily Doe,” exactly one week later. At that party, a fellow student who lived in the same dorm as Turner introduced him to a female friend. That female friend later told police that Brock made her very uncomfortable at the party. She recounted that he was “grabby” - placing his hands on her waist, stomach, and thigh while dancing. She stated that she did not invite him to dance with her and that she eventually left the dance floor because he was invading her space and would not stop touching her.
On the night of January 17, 2015, Brock Turner attended a party at the Kappa Alpha house again. It was at that party that he met “Emily Doe,” the woman he raped after she passed out behind a dumpster. He was spotted thrusting his body on top of the woman by two grad students passing on bicycles. The two students tackled Brock Turner after he tried to run from the scene.
In a sheriff’s report dated January 20, 2015, an officer states that he was dispatched to the Kappa Alpha house in response to a report of an unconscious female in a field. Upon further investigation, another officer found Emily Doe, completely unresponsive but breathing, behind a dumpster at 1:05am of January 18, 2015.
She was found lying in the fetal position on the left side of her body. The front of her body was facing the Kappa Alpha house, with her head closest to the dumpster. The ground that she was lying on was covered in dirt and pine needles. The officer stated,
“[She] was wearing a black, skin tight dress. I noticed that her dress was pulled up to her waist exposing her vagina and butt. The back of her dress was covered in pine needles. The back of her neck was visible and her long hair was disheveled, knotted, and completely covered in pine needles. She had a light gray sweatshirt that was removed from her right arm, but was still on her left arm between the ground and her left arm. Her dress was pulled up on the front of her body as well, above her waist and her lower abdomen and pubic area was visible. She was wearing a bra, however it appeared very disheveled, with part of it exposed outside of her dress. The top of her dress was stretched down over both of her shoulders. She was wearing a necklace that had feathers as a pendant. The necklace was wrapped all the way around her neck so that the pendant portion was now centered on her back. I saw what appeared to be a pair of women’s white thong underwear that was wadded up approximately six inches from her stomach.”
In the report, the officer stated that while he was examining the scene and ensuring that Emily Doe was alive and breathing, an unknown male walked up to them and said, “They have him pinned down over there.” The officer asked the male who he was referring to. He pointed behind him and said, “They said it was the guy who did it” and then he pointed to Emily Doe lying on the ground.
The officer states that he ran to where the unknown male had pointed and found Carl-Fredrik Arndt and Peter Jonsson, two Swedish graduate students at Stanford University, straddling Brock Turner, pinning his arms and legs down as he tried to fight against them. The officer asked them what was going on, and they responded that they had been riding by on their bicycles when they found Turner on top of Emily Doe behind the dumpster.
Turner had a strong odor of alcohol on his breath. The officer wrote in the report, “His pants seemed disheveled around his crotch area and he had what appeared to be a cylindrical bulge consistent with an erect penis underneath his pants.” The officer continued by saying that Turner asked, “What are you doing?” The officer explained that he was a police officer and that he was going to detain Turner until he figured out what was going on. Turner tried to get up and the police officer placed him in a shoulder lock, at which time Turner began to struggle against the officer. After being ordered to turn onto his stomach, Turner complied. He was placed in handcuffs and escorted to the back of the officer’s patrol car. In that report, the officer said that Turner stumbled slightly when walking but “seemed coherent enough to comprehend what I was saying and complied with my requests.”
Brock Turner was informed by the police officer that he was not under arrest at that time but that he was being detained while the officer tried to figure out what had happened. Peter Jonsson and Carl-Fredrik Arndt were instructed to remain where they were for further questioning. The officer then took approximately 42 photographs of the area in which Emily Doe was found. The area was marked off as a crime scene.
Medical personnel arrived on scene and determined that the victim was severely intoxicated. Completely unresponsive and unable to answer questions, Emily Doe was transported to the nearby hospital.
Jonsson was the first witness to be interviewed by the officer. He stated that he and Arndt were riding their bicycles along a path near the Kappa Alpha house when they noticed what looked like two people having sex. He said that he and Arndt initially thought that the interaction between the two people was mutual; however, Jonsson recalled that he “got a weird feeling about it because it looked like the female was asleep or unconscious.”
In the report, the officer states,
“It should be noted that several times throughout giving his statement, Jonsson became very upset, to the point that he began crying while recounting the incident. He had to stop and take several deep breaths before being able to resume giving me his statement. He said it was a very disturbing event for him to witness and be involved in, but he just reacted to the situation at hand without really thinking.”
Jonsson recounted to the officer that he yelled, “Hey” to Brock Turner. He said that Turner looked up from the female and saw Jonsson and Arndt walking toward him. Jonsson reported that, at that time, Turner got off of Doe and began to quickly run away. After briefly checking on the victim and noting that she was breathing but not responding, Jonsson ran after Turner, yelling for him to stop. Turner did not stop and appeared to have no intention of doing so. Jonsson caught up with him and tackled him to the ground. He and Arndt held Turner down until the police arrived.
When Carl-Fredrik Arndt was separately interviewed by the officer, he corroborated the story that Jonsson told.
There are two other witnesses that have not been mentioned in the media. In the sheriff’s report, their names are only identified as Robbins and Bolton.
Robbins is the person who called 911. He is not a student of Stanford University. He was there visiting a friend for the weekend and had attended the party at the Kappa Alpha house. When he left the party, he was walking through a field when he noticed Emily Doe, naked and in the fetal position behind the dumpster. He stated that he did not see anyone with her at the time.
The next witness, identified only as Bolton, also stated that he was not a student at the university. He had been visiting a friend and had also been in attendance at the Kappa Alpha party. He stated that he was walking across campus when he saw the victim lying on the ground. He noticed a male standing over her with his cell phone pointed at the victim. Bolton stated that a bright light was shining from the male’s phone on to Doe’s body. He said that he could not tell if it was a flashlight from the phone or the flash from a photograph or video being taken. He stated that he approached the male and asked if everything was okay. The male did not answer him. Bolton stated that he knelt down to check the victim’s pulse and, when he stood back up, the male had left the scene.
Note: Investigation of Brock Turner’s cell phone would later reveal this message that he received on January 18, 2015, the night of the assault:
Justin Buck was a member of the Stanford swim team with Brock Turner. It is noted that he did not show any support for Turner during his trial. Police were unable to locate any photos on Turner’s phone or on the phones of other members of the group chat because the chat took place on a third party app called “GroupMe.”
After speaking with all witnesses, the officer returned to his vehicle where Brock Turner was handcuffed and seated. He informed Turner that he was under arrest for rape. At that time, Turner was transported to the sheriff’s department and placed in a secure room. He was not given anything to eat or drink in order to avoid contamination of the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) exam. That exam was conducted shortly thereafter.
A different officer stated in the same sheriff’s report that at approximately 1:30am on January 18, 2015, Emily Doe was transported to the hospital via ambulance while he rode in the back with her. She remained unconscious throughout the entire ride. At approximately 2:00am, the ambulance arrived at the hospital. The officer states in the report that he attempted to ask the victim, in a very loud voice, “Can you hear me? What is your name?” He states that he asked this at least every 15 minutes and that the victim did not respond to him at all until approximately 4:15am.
At that time, the officer informed Doe that she was at the hospital. He asked her if she would be willing to undergo a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) procedure and she stated that she would. While lying on the gurney and waiting for the SART exam to begin, the victim spoke with the police officer and shared the following information:
She was not a university student. She was at a party at the Kappa Alpha house with her sister and a friend. She did not know anyone else at the party. She drank some whiskey at home before leaving for the party. She drank beer at the party; nothing else. She did not remember being alone with any male and did not remember any sexual activity from that night.
She told the officer that while she was at the party, she had to urinate. She said that she went outside with a friend to a wooded area to relieve herself. The last thing she remembered was staying outside and speaking to a few guys.
This following is taken from the statement given in court by Emily Doe:
“I had dried blood and bandages on the backs of my hands and elbow. I thought maybe I had fallen and was in an admin office on campus. I was very calm and wondering where my sister was. A deputy explained I had been assaulted. I still remained calm, assured he was speaking to the wrong person. I knew no one at this party. When I was finally allowed to use the restroom, I pulled down the hospital pants they had given me, went to pull down my underwear, and felt nothing. I still remember the feeling of my hands touching my skin and grabbing nothing. I looked down and there was nothing. The thin piece of fabric, the only thing between my vagina and anything else, was missing and everything inside me was silenced. I still don’t have words for that feeling. In order to keep breathing, I thought maybe the policemen used scissors to cut them off for evidence.”
“Then, I felt pine needles scratching the back of my neck and started pulling them out my hair. I thought maybe, the pine needles had fallen from a tree onto my head. My brain was talking my gut into not collapsing. Because my gut was saying, help me, help me.
I shuffled from room to room with a blanket wrapped around me, pine needles trailing behind me, I left a little pile in every room I sat in. I was asked to sign papers that said Rape Victim and I thought something has really happened. My clothes were confiscated and I stood naked while the nurses held a ruler to various abrasions on my body and photographed them. The three of us worked to comb the pine needles out of my hair, six hands to fill one paper bag. To calm me down, they said it’s just the flora and fauna, flora and fauna. I had multiple swabs inserted into my vagina and anus, needles for shots, pills, had a Nikon pointed right into my spread legs. I had long, pointed beaks inside me and had my vagina smeared with cold, blue paint to check for abrasions.”
“After a few hours of this, they let me shower. I stood there examining my body beneath the stream of water and decided, I don’t want my body anymore. I was terrified of it, I didn’t know what had been in it, if it had been contaminated, who had touched it. I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else.
On that morning, all that I was told was that I had been found behind a dumpster, potentially penetrated by a stranger, and that I should get retested for HIV because results don’t always show up immediately. But for now, I should go home and get back to my normal life. Imagine stepping back into the world with only that information. They gave me huge hugs and I walked out of the hospital into the parking lot wearing the new sweatshirt and sweatpants they provided me, as they had only allowed me to keep my necklace and shoes.”
The Holding Cell
Brock Turner slept in the holding cell at the sheriff’s department from approximately 1:45am until 6:35am. When he woke up, an officer read his Miranda rights. The officer stated in the report that Turner answered “yes” to all of the Miranda statements and that he did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol at that time.
Turner told the officer that he arrived to the Kappa Alpha party at around 11pm on the night of January 17, 2015. He stated that he drank beer and Fireball whiskey at the party, and that he kissed several girls that night. He went outside later in the night and met Emily Doe, who was with someone that he assumed was her friend. In the report, Turner stated that he began to kiss Emily Doe and that they ended up on the ground. He claimed that he took off her underwear and fingered her vagina, but denied having penetrated her with his penis. He said that she “rubbed his back.” He told the officer that the entire encounter took about five minutes and that he would not be able to identify Emily Doe again if he saw her.
In the police report, Turner stated that he began to “not feel well” and stood up from Doe. He said that then, for no reason, two people attacked him and pinned him to the ground. The officer asked Turner why he ran, to which Turner answered that he did not think he did. He said that, although he had been drinking that night, he consciously decided to engage in sexual activity with the victim. He said that he remembered everything that happened that night and that Doe seemed to enjoy the encounter.
Emily Doe’s Sister
The victim’s sister was interviewed in the sheriff’s report. She said that she drank a little bit of whiskey before her mother drove her and Doe to the party at the Kappa Alpha house. She stated that even though she was drinking that night, she was coherent and remembered everything that happened. She recounted the same story that Emily told: they had to urinate and went outside to do so. After relieving themselves, they stood outside and spoke with a few guys.
She recalled that, while they were standing outside, Brock Turner walked up to her and Doe and was very aggressive, and stated that he was “trying to kiss everyone.” She said that Turner walked up to her and grabbed her face, kissing her. She pushed him away and he left. A short while later, he returned and kissed her again. She pushed him off of her once more and he walked away.
A little while later, Doe’s sister noticed that their friend was too drunk to stay at the party. She said that she walked her friend to her dorm room and put her to bed. She then returned to the Kappa Alpha house and saw police in the area. She said that she spent about a half hour looking for her sister but could not find her.
On March 7, 2016 the People of the State of California filed a complaint against Brock Allen Turner. In that complaint, the District Attorney of the County of Santa Clara alleged that Turner was guilty of three counts:
The crime of assault with intent to commit rape of an unconscious person
The crime of sexual penetration when the victim was intoxicated
The crime of sexual penetration where the victim was unconscious of the nature of the act.
People’s Motions in Limine and Witness List
“Motion in limine” is a term used at pre-trial hearings or during a trial to request that the judge rule that certain testimony be excluded. This motion is discussed outside the presence of a jury and decided on by a judge. It is most frequently used to shield the jury from information concerning the defendant that could possibly be unfairly prejudicial if heard at trial.
In The People of the State of California vs. Brock Allen Turner, some of the motions in limine that were set in place regarding Turner were:
Exclude References to Sentencing Consequences: Since the jury is not allowed to consider penalty or punishment, the People request that the defense be ordered not to make any references to sentencing consequences in this case either during the presentation of evidence or during argument.
Exclusion of Evidence Designed to Solicit Sympathy: An order to exclude all testimony, argument or evidence the primary purpose of which is to solicit sympathy for the Defendant, including:
- The Defendant's feelings about the case, including but not limited to whether the Defendant is embarrassed or humiliated because of his arrest, any feelings he may have felt after the alleged incident, or feelings of persecution.
- The potential impact that the jury verdict may have on the Defendant's family, employment, financial status, probation status, parole status and/or immigration status.
- The impact and future potential impact on the Defendant's swimming career.
The motion in limine goes on to state that “[s]uch testimony, argument or evidence is irrelevant and will create a substantial danger of undue prejudice or will confuse the issues or mislead the jury.”
Some of the motions in limine set in place regarding Emily Doe were:
Questions related to Emily Doe’s sexual history should not be permitted.
The People seek to exclude any reference to the victim’s manner of dress.
On March 14, 2016 at 8:55am, Brock Turner pled “not guilty.”
The jury was reminded of his charges and instructed on how to arrive at a ruling on each count:
The crime of rape of an unconscious person is as follows:
A defendant had sexual intercourse with a woman
He and the woman were not married to each other at the time of intercourse
The woman was unable to resist because she was unconscious of the nature of the act
The Defendant knew that the woman was unable to resist because she was unconscious of the nature of the act.
The crime of sexual penetration of a person while that person was intoxicated is as follows:
The Defendant committed an act of sexual penetration with another person
The penetration was accomplished by using a foreign object
The effect of an intoxicating substance prevented the other person from resisting the act
The Defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the effect of the substance prevented the other person from resisting the act.
The crime of sexual penetration of a person who was unconscious of the nature of the act is as follows:
The Defendant committed an act of sexual penetration with another person
The penetration was accomplished by using a foreign object
The person was unable to resist because she was unconscious of the nature of the act
The Defendant knew that the other person was unable to resist because she was unconscious of the nature of the act.
Regardless of the motions in limine set forth prior to the trial beginning, Emily Doe reflected on the following upon reading her statement in court:
“Instead of taking time to heal, I was taking time to recall the night in excruciating detail, in order to prepare for the attorney’s questions that would be invasive, aggressive, and designed to steer me off course, to contradict myself, my sister, phrased in ways to manipulate my answers. Instead of his attorney saying, Did you notice any abrasions? He said, You didn’t notice any abrasions, right? This was a game of strategy, as if I could be tricked out of my own worth. The sexual assault had been so clear, but instead, here I was at the trial, answering questions like:
How old are you? How much do you weigh? What did you eat that day? Well what did you have for dinner? Who made dinner? Did you drink with dinner? No, not even water? When did you drink? How much did you drink? What container did you drink out of? Who gave you the drink? How much do you usually drink? Who dropped you off at this party? At what time? But where exactly? What were you wearing? Why were you going to this party? What’ d you do when you got there? Are you sure you did that? But what time did you do that? What does this text mean? Who were you texting? When did you urinate? Where did you urinate? With whom did you urinate outside? Was your phone on silent when your sister called? Do you remember silencing it? Really because on page 53 I’d like to point out that you said it was set to ring. Did you drink in college? You said you were a party animal? How many times did you black out? Did you party at frats? Are you serious with your boyfriend? Are you sexually active with him? When did you start dating? Would you ever cheat? Do you have a history of cheating? What do you mean when you said you wanted to reward him? Do you remember what time you woke up? Were you wearing your cardigan? What color was your cardigan? Do you remember any more from that night? No? Okay, well, we’ll let Brock fill it in.
I was pummelled with narrowed, pointed questions that dissected my personal life, love life, past life, family life, inane questions, accumulating trivial details to try and find an excuse for this guy who had me half naked before even bothering to ask for my name. After a physical assault, I was assaulted with questions designed to attack me, to say see, her facts don’t line up, she’s out of her mind, she’s practically an alcoholic, she probably wanted to hook up, he’s like an athlete right, they were both drunk, whatever, the hospital stuff she remembers is after the fact, why take it into account, Brock has a lot at stake so he’s having a really hard time right now.”
Opening statements were given by the prosecuting and defense attorneys on March 17, 2016 and the trial was well underway. During the trial, Doe, her sister, Fredrik-Arndt, and Jonsson were cross-examined. Also questioned were the friends of Emily Doe and Brock Turner that were at the party, as well as multiple police officers who responded to the call that night.
The photographs that were taken of Emily Doe at the scene were shared with the jury. Also shared with the jury were photographs of the victim’s injuries, including photographs of her buttocks and vagina. Doe’s family was present in the courtroom and was subjected to these photographs.
Jurors were allowed to submit questions for the defendant in writing. These questions were filed and passed on to the defense attorneys. Some of those questions were:
“Have you personally talked with a person while they are having a blackout and found them to be acting normally and able to make rational decisions?”
“How can you ‘act accordingly’ when you are having a blackout and under the influence?”
Michael Armstrong, Brock Turner’s attorney, filed an answer which was given to the jurors. It read as follows:
“The defendant is not guilty of this crime if he actually and reasonably believed that the person was conscious, even if his belief was wrong. The People have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant did not actually and reasonably believe that the woman was unconscious. If the People have not met this burden, then you must find the Defendant not guilty.”
On March 28, 2016, the jury had heard all witnesses and seen all evidence and cross-examination. The jurors were instructed on deliberation.
On March 30, 2016, the jury returned to the courtroom with the following verdicts:
We, the jury, find the Defendant, Brock Allen Turner, guilty of a felony: Assault With Intent to Commit Rape of an Intoxicated or Unconscious Person
We, the jury, find the Defendant, Brock Allen Turner, guilty of a felony: Sexual Penetration when the victim was intoxicated
We, the jury, find the Defendant, Brock Allen Turner, guilty of a felony: Sexual Penetration Where the Victim Was Unconscious of the Nature of the Act.
Before the Sentencing: The State of California
Brock Turner was found guilty of three counts of felony assault, which carried a potential sentence of 14 years in prison. The prosecution recommended a sentence of six years, but probation officers recommended a “moderate” sentence of six months in a county jail.
Judge Aaron Persky presided over the trial of Brock Turner. It is interesting to note that Judge Persky is a graduate of Stanford University himself, and was also the coach of the Stanford men’s lacrosse team.
Although the motions of limine mandated that Turner’s swim career not be mentioned or taken into consideration during the trial, Persky appeared to have taken that into consideration when deciding on a sentence.
On June 3, Persky was quoted as saying that, “Turner's youth, character references, lack of a criminal record and, to a lesser extent, the role alcohol played in the assault pointed toward a short jail sentence rather than a longer prison term.”
A “People’s sentencing memorandum” is defined as a pre-sentencing report. It contains information that will be used to determine a proper sentencing for a person who is convicted of a crime.
In the People’s sentencing memorandum presented to the judge by the State of California, it states:
“The Probation Department has made a recommendation regarding the sentence and it has recommended that the court exercise discretion and make a finding of “unusual circumstances” in order for the defendant to be sentenced to a county jail term. The people respectfully disagree with the Probation Department’s assessment and recommendation in this case. The Probation Department’s recommendation does not take into consideration the seriousness of this case, the fact that the was convicted of multiple sex acts, and the fact that he has not demonstrated genuine remorse or accountability for his actions.”
In this statement, the prosecution pointed out Brock Turner’s prior arrest for possession of alcohol as a minor, as well as that he attempted to run from the police in that incident. The memorandum also called attention to texts that had been found on his phone, in which Turner spoke of using multiple types of illegal drugs. It recalled the girl at the Kappa Alpha party who stated that Turner had molested her just one week before the rape of Emily Doe. Lastly, the memorandum reminded the judge of the GroupMe message that came through Brock Turner’s phone on the same night as the rape which read, “Who’s [sic] tit is that?”
The State of California argued in the statement that the general objectives of sentencing are to:
punish the defendant
encourage the defendant to lead a law-abiding life in the future
deter him from future offenses
deter others from criminal conduct by demonstrating its consequences
prevent the Defendant from committing new crimes by isolating him for the period of incarceration, and
secure restitution for the victim of the crime, and achieving uniformity in sentencing.
The statement went on to say that:
a term of six months in a county jail did not adequately take into account the severity of Brock Turner’s actions
Turner had been showing a pattern of behavior for quite some time (drinking underage, partaking in drugs, sexually harassing females)
a term of six months in a county jail with probation would not effectively punish Turner.
Even more importantly, the State of California pointed out that college campus rape is an epidemic. They asserted that by effectively punishing Brock Turner, the court would set a very important precedent in deterring future crimes on college campuses.
Before the Sentencing: The Defense
The defense presented its own memorandum for recommendation of sentencing. In that memorandum, Michael Armstrong, Turner’s attorney stated,
“This case is not a prison case, and defendant respectfully asks the court to follow the recommendations of the probation department, find unusual circumstances, place him on probation for three to five years, order him to serve a 4-month county jail sentence, and impose the conditions of probation recommended by the probation department.”
The defense then argued in its memorandum that Turner had indeed shown remorse when speaking to a probation officer. Armstrong asserted that when Turner met with the probation officer he showed empathy for Emily Doe by saying, “Her having to go through the justice system because of my actions just… it’s unforgivable.”
Armstrong went on to say that in a written statement attached to the probation report, Turner stated:
“Not only have I altered my life, but I’ve also changed [Emily Doe’s] and her family’s life. I am the sole proprietor of what happened on the night that these people’s lives were changed forever. I would give anything to change what happened that night. I can never forgive myself for imposing trauma and pain on [Doe]. It debilitates me to think that my actions have caused her emotional and physical stress that is completely unwarranted and unfair.”
One would have to wonder at this point why Turner pled not guilty. From his statement, it appears that he knew he had sexually assaulted a person. From his own words, it seems that he understood that he did something horrific to Emily Doe. However, he maintained his innocence and allowed his defense attorney to victimize Emily repeatedly in the courtroom.
Turner’s attorney continued in his statement:
“I am sure [the prosecuting attorney] wants Mr. Turner to state that he knowingly, intentionally, and feloniously committed these crimes, but Mr. Turner has given a statement to the police on the night he was arrested, testified at trial, and told the probation officer his version of events, both orally and in writing. The fact remains that, even after the trial in this court, no one can pinpoint exactly when the victim went from being conscious to being unconscious. No one other than Mr. Turner can state with any certainty whether the victim was unconscious or not when the digital penetration occurred.”
The defense attorney continued his statement by saying, “Mr. Turner’s recitation of events has never changed from day one in its essence.”
That statement is not true. Emily Doe’s statement to the court reads:
“The night after it happened, he said he didn’t know my name, said he wouldn’t be able to identify my face in a lineup, didn’t mention any dialogue between us, no words, only dancing and kissing. Dancing is a cute term; was it snapping fingers and twirling dancing, or just bodies grinding up against each other in a crowded room? I wonder if kissing was just faces sloppily pressed up against each other? When the detective asked if he had planned on taking me back to his dorm, he said no. When the detective asked how we ended up behind the dumpster, he said he didn’t know. He admitted to kissing other girls at that party, one of whom was my own sister who pushed him away. He admitted to wanting to hook up with someone. I was the wounded antelope of the herd, completely alone and vulnerable, physically unable to fend for myself, and he chose me. Sometimes I think, if I hadn’t gone, then this never would’ve happened. But then I realized, it would have happened, just to somebody else. You were about to enter four years of access to drunk girls and parties, and if this is the foot you started off on, then it is right you did not continue. The night after it happened, he said he thought I liked it because I rubbed his back. A back rub.
Never mentioned me voicing consent, never mentioned us even speaking, a back rub. One more time, in public news, I learned that my ass and vagina were completely exposed outside, my breasts had been groped, fingers had been jabbed inside me along with pine needles and debris, my bare skin and head had been rubbing against the ground behind a dumpster, while an erect freshman was humping my half naked, unconscious body. But I don’t remember, so how do I prove I didn’t like it.
She went on to state:
“And then it came time for him to testify and I learned what it meant to be revictimized. I want to remind you, the night after it happened he said he never planned to take me back to his dorm. He said he didn’t know why we were behind a dumpster. He got up to leave because he wasn’t feeling well when he was suddenly chased and attacked. Then he learned I could not remember.
So one year later, as predicted, a new dialogue emerged. Brock had a strange new story, almost sounded like a poorly written young adult novel with kissing and dancing and hand holding and lovingly tumbling onto the ground, and most importantly in this new story, there was suddenly consent. One year after the incident, he remembered, oh yeah, by the way she actually said yes, to everything.
Your attorney has repeatedly pointed out, well we don’t know exactly when she became unconscious. And you’re right, maybe I was still fluttering my eyes and wasn’t completely limp yet. That was never the point. I was too drunk to speak English, too drunk to consent way before I was on the ground. I should have never been touched in the first place. Brock stated, “At no time did I see that she was not responding. If at any time I thought she was not responding, I would have stopped immediately.” Here’s the thing; if your plan was to stop only when I became unresponsive, then you still do not understand. You didn’t even stop when I was unconscious anyway! Someone else stopped you. Two guys on bikes noticed I wasn’t moving in the dark and had to tackle you. How did you not notice while on top of me?
To sit under oath and inform all of us, that yes I wanted it, yes I permitted it, and that you are the true victim attacked by Swedes for reasons unknown to you is appalling, is demented, is selfish, is damaging. It is enough to be suffering. It is another thing to have someone ruthlessly working to diminish the gravity of validity of this suffering.”
In an attempt to earn a lighter sentence with probation, Turner claimed to want to establish a program for high school and college students in which he would “speak out against the college campus drinking culture and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that.”
In her court statement, Doe brilliantly responded to Turner’s promise:
“Alcohol is not an excuse. Is it a factor? Yes. But alcohol was not the one who stripped me, fingered me, had my head dragging against the ground, with me almost fully naked. Having too much to drink was an amateur mistake that I admit to, but it is not criminal. Everyone in this room has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much, or knows someone close to them who has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much. Regretting drinking is not the same as regretting sexual assault. We were both drunk, the difference is I did not take off your pants and underwear, touch you inappropriately, and run away. That’s the difference.
Again, you were not wrong for drinking. Everyone around you was not sexually assaulting me. You were wrong for doing what nobody else was doing, which was pushing your erect dick in your pants against my naked, defenseless body concealed in a dark area, where partygoers could no longer see or protect me, and my own sister could not find me. Sipping fireball is not your crime. Peeling off and discarding my underwear like a candy wrapper to insert your finger into my body, is where you went wrong. Why am I still explaining this.
Campus drinking culture. That’s what we’re speaking out against? You think that’s what I’ve spent the past year fighting for? Not awareness about campus sexual assault, or rape, or learning to recognize consent. Campus drinking culture. Down with Jack Daniels. Down with Skyy Vodka. If you want talk to people about drinking go to an AA meeting. You realize, having a drinking problem is different than drinking and then forcefully trying to have sex with someone? Show men how to respect women, not how to drink less.
Lastly 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, enrollment. 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.
Drinking culture and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that. Goes along with that, like a side effect, like fries on the side of your order. Where does promiscuity even come into play? I don’t see headlines that read, Brock Turner, Guilty of drinking too much and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that. Campus Sexual Assault. There’s your first powerpoint slide. Rest assured, if you fail to fix the topic of your talk, I will follow you to every school you go to and give a follow up presentation.”
Emily Doe’s Statement
Doe’s court statement was 12 pages long, and she read it out loud in court without so much as even flinching. After that, she contacted BuzzFeed News and allowed them to print it in full. By doing so, she shared her pain with the the world - the pain of not only being a victim of sexual assault, but also the pain of being revictimized in a courtroom repeatedly for over a year. By making her statement public, she shone a bright light on rape culture and victim blaming. Since then, countless articles have been written about Doe’s story.
In one such article, published by Salon, Jamie Ludwig writes:
“By bringing her impact statement to the public, Emily Doe has done something nothing short of incredible. She’s forced America to start a conversation it hadn’t quite been ready for, even after a year in which high-profile sexual violence stories, including those of the dozens of women speaking out against Bill Cosby and pop-singer Kesha’s allegations against producer Dr. Luke, among others, have been widely discussed in the news and social discourse, and in a time where young women are increasingly calling out those who perpetuate sexism, misogyny and gender-based violence in public forums.
Without diminishing her experience even a millimeter–no one should ever have to suffer what she has–it is important to consider how different the public response to her statement might have been had she been perceived as poor, uneducated, transgender, homeless or otherwise disenfranchised, a person of color (given the stereotypes of fraternity culture it is fair to argue that many who read her letter presume her to be white), or a sex worker. What if Brock Turner had not attacked an “unconscious, intoxicated woman” he met at the party that night, but instead had been caught raping an “unconscious, intoxicated man?” Would over five million people have taken time out of their day to read the impact statement of that person and be as openly moved by their words? Would public figures such as Vice President Joe Biden have felt compelled to respond personally?”
Emily Doe has everyone talking. Ashleigh Banfield, a CNN Legal View host, took 30 commercial-free minutes to read the statement in full during her program. San Francisco and Peninsula Congresswoman Jackie Speier was vital in the movement to have Doe’s statement read out loud on the floor of the US House of Representatives. This was a moment in history, with lawmakers shining a spotlight on the issue of sexual assault. Even Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States, wrote a letter to Emily Doe. In that letter, he stated:
“I am in awe of your courage for speaking out — for so clearly naming the wrongs that were done to you and so passionately asserting your equal claim to human dignity. And I am filled with furious anger — both that this happened to you and that our culture is still so broken that you were ever put in the position of defending your own worth.
It must have been wrenching — to relive what he did to you all over again. But you did it anyway, in the hope that your strength might prevent this crime from happening to someone else. Your bravery is breathtaking.
You are a warrior — with a solid steel spine.
You were failed by a culture on our college campuses where one in five women is sexually assaulted — year after year after year. A culture that promotes passivity. That encourages young men and women on campuses to simply turn a blind eye.
The statistics on college sexual assault haven’t gone down in the past two decades. It’s obscene, and it’s a failure that lies at all our feet.
And you were failed by anyone who dared to question this one clear and simple truth: Sex without consent is rape. Period. It is a crime.”
Regardless of the arguments made by the State of California in the sentencing memorandum, on June 2, 2016, Judge Persky sentenced Brock Turner to six months in a county jail and three years of probation. With good behavior, Turner is likely to be out of jail in three months. Brock Turner was also ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life and participate in a sex offender rehabilitation program.
At the sentencing, Judge Persky said he believed Turner’s story. He is quoted in a transcript obtained by CNN as saying, “I mean, I took him at his word that, subjectively, that’s his version of events.” He went on to say, “The jury, obviously, found it not to be the sequence of events.” He also asserted that Turner’s alcohol use was a major factor in how he decided on a sentence for Turner.
It seems that Aaron Persky did not agree with the jury. One would have to question why the trial took place at all. Why choose a jury? Why sequester so many people for so long, not allowing them to watch television, read the newspaper or speak to their loved ones when the judge is only going to end up handling things the way he wants? Why use the judicial system at all?
The nation is not happy with Judge Persky, and there are many efforts being made for him to be removed from the bench. He has been widely criticized for giving such a lenient sentence to someone who was unanimously found guilty of three felony sex crimes. The majority of his critics believe that he showed mercy on Turner due to Turner’s swimming career. A petition entitled “Justice for a Sexual Assault Survivor” states:
“Turner has shown no remorse and plans to attempt to overturn his conviction. Judge Persky failed to see that the fact that Brock Turner is a white male star athlete at a prestigious university does not entitle him to leniency. He also failed to send the message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class, race, gender or other factors. Please help rectify this travesty to justice.”
The backlash doesn’t stop there. On June 14, 2016 the Palo Alto, California District Attorney blocked Judge Persky from hearing a new sexual assault case. The article goes on to state that the same District Attorney was considering blocking all sexual assault cases that get assigned to Persky’s court.
In a different case that Persky was presiding over, seven potential jurors told Judge Persky that they could not be chosen for the jury because they refused to work with him. Critics have said that Persky’s ruling on the Brock Turner case shows that he is unfit for the bench.
Judge Aaron Persky may as well have spit in the face of Emily Doe. In her statement, she addressed Brock and said:
“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, enrollment. 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.”
Brock’s father, Dan Turner, wrote a letter to Judge Persky and read it aloud in the courtroom on the day of his son’s sentencing. That letter, much like the sentence that Persky chose, has sparked outrage. Much like his son, Dan Turner blamed the events of January 17th and 18th on alcohol. In that letter, not once did he voice any concern for the victim or her family. Some of the letter read as follows:
“Living under that same roof with Brock since this incident, I can tell you firsthand the devastating impact that it has had on my son. Before I elaborate more, I would like to share some of the memories of my son that demonstrate the quality of his character.
Brock has an easygoing personality that endears him to almost everyone he meets. He has always been a person that people like to be around whether they are male or female. Brock has an inner strength and fortitude that is beyond anything I have ever seen. This was no doubt heed over many years of competitive swimming and has been a major reason for his ability to cope over the last 15 months.
Brock was equally talented in athletics participating in baseball, basketball, and swimming. I was his baseball and basketball coach and his Cub Scout den leader for many years during his grade school years. I was so proud to participate and serve as his coach and leader as it meant that I got to spend more time with him. Brock was a pleasure to be around and he always treated the other kids, parents, and teachers with respect.”
Throughout this letter, Dan Turner repeatedly mentioned his son’s swim accomplishments - one of the very things barred from mention in court as outlined in the prosecution’s motion of limine. For two very long paragraphs, Brock Turner’s father went on a tangent about his son’s academic and extracurricular accomplishments. Again, there was no mention of Emily Doe and the trauma that she endured. He then continued:
“As it stands now, Brock’s life has been deeply altered forever by the events of January 17th and 18th. He will never be his happy go lucky self with that easy going personality and welcoming smile. His every waking minute is consumed with worry, anxiety, fear, and depression. You can see this in his face, the way he walks, his weakened voice, his lack of appetite. Brock always enjoyed certain types of food and is a very good cook himself. I was always excited to buy him a big ribeye steak to grill or to get his favorite snack for him. I had to make sure to hide some of my favorite pretzels or chips because I knew they wouldn’t be around long after Brock walked in from a long swim practice. Now he barely consumes any food and eats only to exist. These verdicts have broken and shattered him and our family in so many ways. 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.”
Perhaps Turner did not pay attention to Emily Doe when she said:
“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,” ten 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.
My independence, natural joy, gentleness, and steady lifestyle I had been enjoying became distorted beyond recognition. I became closed off, angry, self deprecating, tired, irritable, empty. The isolation at times was unbearable. You cannot give me back the life I had before that night either. While you worry about your shattered reputation, I refrigerated spoons every night so when I woke up, and my eyes were puffy from crying, I would hold the spoons to my eyes to lessen the swelling so that I could see. I showed up an hour late to work every morning, excused myself to cry in the stairwells, I can tell you all the best places in that building to cry where no one can hear you. The pain became so bad that I had to explain the private details to my boss to let her know why I was leaving. I needed time because continuing day to day was not possible. I used my savings to go as far away as I could possibly be. I did not return to work full time as I knew I’d have to take weeks off in the future for the hearing and trial, that were constantly being rescheduled. My life was put on hold for over a year, my structure had collapsed.
I can’t sleep alone at night without having a light on, like a five year old, because I have nightmares of being touched where I cannot wake up, I did this thing where I waited until the sun came up and I felt safe enough to sleep. For three months, I went to bed at six o’clock in the morning.”
The fact that Brock Turner is upset he got caught raping someone is a far cry from Emily Doe living in hell because he sexually assaulted her.
That’s the difference, Mr. Turner. Forgive us if we don’t feel the sympathy you have worked so hard to garner for your son.
Not to be outdone by her husband’s complete disregard for Emily Doe, Brock Turner’s mother also wrote a letter to the judge. In her letter, she echoed the sentiments of her husband, outlining in paragraph after paragraph how wonderful of a personality Brock has, how much he likes to eat, and how good he was in school and swimming.
“Those happy family times are gone forever, replaced by despair, fear, depression, anxiety, doubt, and dread. I don’t think I have been able to take a deep breath since this happened. My first thought upon wakening [sic] every morning is, ‘This isn’t real, this can’t be real. Why him? Why HIM? WHY? WHY?’
I have cried every single day since January 18th. This is on my mind every moment. But in the months leading up to the trial, we had hope. Brock told us what happened and his accounting of the events of that night never changed from the first time he told us everything. He was a shy and awkward 19-year-old, far away from home trying to fit in with the swimmers he idolized.
Then that awful, horrible, terrible, gut-wrenching, life-changing verdict was read. I know what a broken heart feels like. It is a physical pain that starts just below the collar bone and extends to below the rib cage, it is a crushing and heavy ache that feels like I am being squeezed. This feeling has not left my body since the verdict. This verdict has destroyed us.”
I’m sure that Emily Doe knows that feeling very well, Mrs. Turner. Do you know the physical pain that Emily also endured on top of the emotional distress she was forced to endure? You were not penetrated in the dirt. You did not have pine needles and soil in your vagina. You did not have to undergo a SART exam and have a photograph taken of your labia.
Please excuse us if we show you no sympathy. I’m sure you can relate since you don’t show any for anyone else besides your golden child son.
She went on to say:
“Brock is a shattered and broken shell of the person he used to be. My once vibrant and happy boy is distraught, deeply depressed, terribly wounded, and filled with despair. His smile is gone forever - that beautiful grin is no more. When I look into his eyes I see fear and anguish. His voice is barely above a whisper and he keeps himself hunched over almost trying not to be noticed. He trembles uncontrollably. He is crushed that the jury ruled against him. He has lost so much weight because he barely eats anything. He is utterly terrified and traumatized by this. We are devastated beyond belief My beautiful, happy family will never know happiness again.”
Mrs. Turner shows no compassion to Emily Doe. From what she said in her letter, Brock’s life sounds very similar to his victim’s. Emily Doe said in her statement:
“I used to pride myself on my independence, now I am afraid to go on walks in the evening, to attend social events with drinking among friends where I should be comfortable being. I have become a little barnacle always needing to be at someone’s side, to have my boyfriend standing next to me, sleeping beside me, protecting me. It is embarrassing how feeble I feel, how timidly I move through life, always guarded, ready to defend myself, ready to be angry.
You have no idea how hard I have worked to rebuild parts of me that are still weak. It took me eight months to even talk about what happened. I could no longer connect with friends, with everyone around me. I would scream at my boyfriend, my own family whenever they brought this up. You never let me forget what happened to me. At the of end of the hearing, the trial, I was too tired to speak. I would leave drained, silent. I would go home turn off my phone and for days I would not speak. You bought me a ticket to a planet where I lived by myself. Every time a new article come out, I lived with the paranoia that my entire hometown would find out and know me as the girl who got assaulted. I didn’t want anyone’s pity and am still learning to accept victim as part of my identity. You made my own hometown an uncomfortable place to be.
You cannot give me back my sleepless nights. The way I have broken down sobbing uncontrollably if I’m watching a movie and a woman is harmed, to say it lightly, this experience has expanded my empathy for other victims. I have lost weight from stress, when people would comment I told them I’ve been running a lot lately. There are times I did not want to be touched. I have to relearn that I am not fragile, I am capable, I am wholesome, not just livid and weak.”
The difference is that Emily Doe did not rape Brock Turner.
Carleen Turner went on to say in her letter:
“Your honor, I beg of you to show Brock mercy. Please send him a message that his life still has meaning, that you believe in him. Please give him hope. His life is forever impacted and drastically altered by the ramifications of these guilty verdicts.”
His life is not impacted and altered by what he did to someone else. His life is not impacted and altered based on the lack of human decency he exhibited when he sexually assaulted a woman in the dirt. No. His life is simply impacted because the jury found him guilty.
A friend of Brock Turner, Leslie Rasmussen, also wrote a letter to Judge Persky.
“Brock is not a monster. He is the furthest thing from anything like that, and I have known him much longer than the people involved in this case.”
Forgive me for interrupting, Leslie, but I have one question. Did Brock ever rape you in the dirt behind a dumpster? No? Please continue.
“I don’t think it’s fair to base the fate of the next ten + years of his life on the decision of a girl who doesn’t remember anything but the amount she drank to press charges against him.”
You’re correct, Miss Rasmussen. Emily Doe does not remember what happened to her. That’s the problem. But she does remember all the events afterward. Does that not count for anything?
“I am not blaming her directly for this, because that isn’t right. But where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn’t always because people are rapists.”
When you commit rape, you are a rapist. It is as simple as that.
“It is because these universities market themselves as the biggest party schools in the country. They encourage drinking. I think it is disgusting and I am so sick of hearing that these young men are monsters when really, you are throwing barely 20-somethings into these camp-like university environments, supporting partying, and then your mind is blown when things get out of hand.”
Yes. Minds tend to be blown when women are raped in the dirt behind a dumpster.
“This is completely different from a woman getting kidnapped and raped as she is walking to her care in a parking lot. That is a rapist. These are not rapists.”
Penetrating a woman’s vagina when she is unable to consent to that activity is rape, Miss Rasmussen.
“These are idiot boys and girls having too much to drink and not being aware of their surrounds and having clouded judgment. I’m not saying that is every case because I know there are young men that take advantage of women and vice versa, but I know for a fact that Brock is not one of those people. He is respectful and caring, talented, and smart enough to know better.”
But he wasn’t smart enough to know better. His actions proved that.
This letter from Leslie Rasmussen reeks of victim-blaming. The scariest part of this letter is the fact that it was written by a woman.
The assault of Emily Doe and the resulting trial combine to form a case study on rape culture unlike anything we have seen before. The repeated victimization and blame that Doe had to endure during the entirety of this process is maddening. Yet, Turner - the rapist and aggressor - has been painted as the person most deserving of sympathy.
Judge Persky sentenced Turner to the equivalent of a slap on the wrist. In no time, Turner will be out of jail and back at home where his parents can coddle him and tell him how misunderstood he is. He had claimed that he would never touch a drop of alcohol again; after all, it ruined his life.
The truth is that raping someone ruined one life: Emily Doe’s. As she stated in court:
“Your life is not over, you have decades of years ahead to rewrite your story. The world is huge, it is so much bigger than Palo Alto and Stanford, and you will make a space for yourself in it where you can be useful and happy. But right now, you do not get to shrug your shoulders and be confused anymore. You do not get to pretend that there were no red flags. You have been convicted of violating me, intentionally, forcibly, sexually, with malicious intent, and all you can admit to is consuming alcohol. Do not talk about the sad way your life was upturned because alcohol made you do bad things. Figure out how to take responsibility for your own conduct.”
Emily Doe is a hero. She says that she will never reveal her real name. She says that she is “every woman” and does not need to be singled out. What she did for victims everywhere by sharing her statement with the world is the definition of bravery. She has single-handedly shown the universe what it is like to be victimized, shamed, and blamed.
She is the epitome of a survivor. The hardest thing to do when you have been sexually assaulted is to talk about it - but not only did she talk about it, she preached. She stood on a mountain and yelled at the sky. She told everyone and anyone who would listen, “This is not okay. None of this is okay.” Even the usual suspects who downplay every story of sexual assault and rape were silenced in this case. Emily Doe told them all, “Shut up and listen to me.”
And they listened.
“And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. As the author Anne Lamott once wrote, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you.”