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This article contains triggering material.
A former Stanford University swimmer was sentenced on Thursday after being convicted of raping an unconscious woman outside a fraternity house in January 2015.
Brock Turner, now 20, was sentenced to just six months in a county jail, despite the maximum penalty being 10 years in state prison. The sentencing judge cited Turner’s young age and lack of criminal history as the reason for his lenient decision.
Turner’s victim, now 23, addressed her attacker directly following the sentencing in a powerful statement detailing the evening of January 17, 2015, when she joined her younger sister for what she expected to be a fun night at a party near their home. She provided her statement in full to BuzzFeed.
The statement begins by highlighting the victim’s carefree attitude toward spending a night at a party with undergraduate students younger than her.
“I called myself ‘big mama’, because I knew I’d be the oldest one there,” the statement reads. “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 the victim remembers is waking up on a gurney in the hallway of a hospital with no memory of what happened the night prior. When a deputy told her she had been attacked, she didn’t believe him. The statement goes on to outline the testing, swabbing and cleaning that followed, nurses removing pine needles from her hair and removing her clothes, and the photographs that were taken of every bruise and scrape on her body. She claimed that all she was told was that she’d been found behind a dumpster, “potentially penetrated by a stranger.” Medical personnel told her to get tested for HIV, but for now, to get some rest.
“Imagine stepping back into the world with only that information,” she said.
In the days and weeks that followed, the victim states that she struggled to interact with those around her. She didn’t find out what truly happened that night until she read a news story on her phone while sitting at her desk at work. She learned Turner’s name and that he’d told investigators she’d “liked it.” At the bottom of the story were his swimming times.
“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. Throw in my mile time if that’s what we’re doing. I’m good at cooking, put that in there, I think the end is where you list your extracurriculars to cancel out all the sickening things that’ve happened,” the statement reads.
Perpetrators from privileged backgrounds such as Turner's are often lauded by the media for their “once-promising” futures now ruined, the victims’ voices squashed and twisted in a way that makes it seem like the public is mourning the attacker’s tarnished reputation rather than the potential crime committed.
Turner’s victim took particular issue with his claims that he would work to raise awareness of sexual assault and drinking culture on college campuses as penance (“I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin a life,” he wrote in his statement).
“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.”
The entire letter outlines, in detail, a familiar narrative in which rape victims are accused more than the attackers themselves, subject to months and sometimes years of slut-shaming, victim-blaming and messy legal proceedings that rarely end in the victim’s favor.
She went on to express her disbelief at the lenient sentencing he received. The judge chose to sentence Turner to just six months in jail and two years probation. Palo Alto Online reports that Turner could be released from jail as soon as three months from now if he gets credit for good behavior.
Read the full statement here.