There has been a great deal of commentary across the entire world over the last few days about the sentencing of Stanford University student Brock Turner, after he was tried and convicted of the sexual assault of a young woman visiting the campus.
Stripped of emotion, rhetoric and the charged heat of all those who now feel invested in this woman's survival and strength, taken back to bare facts, what we are left with is this.
Brock Turner, 22, was sentenced last Thursday to six months in a county jail - with early release for good behaviour - after being found guilty of three felony sexual assault charges for the 'violation' of a Stanford graduate outside a fraternity party on January 18, 2015. The Santa Clara County Court Judge, Aaron Persky, found he was guilty of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.
What actually happened, if you look at it from the perspective of the night in question, and the parties involved, is this. Brock Turner, feeling like a big man after getting absolutely plastered at a frat party, raped an unconscious woman with his fingers, (and God knows what else), and left her lying in the dirt next to a dumpster. He then walked away. And two blokes, two good, good men, who were crying they were so horrified by what they found, were passing by on their bikes, and had the guts to not only say 'hey - there's something wrong here', but get off those bikes and tackle him. They held him until a security officer arrived. If not for them, he would have gotten away with it.
The woman was still unconscious when the boys arrived; she was still unconscious when the Stanford security officer arrived.
He left her in the dirt. Next to a dumpster.
Looking at the ridiculously light sentencing for what he has done, who is to say now, Brock Turner, and anybody who blames alcohol, or another substance, or the moon being in the seventh house, didn't get away with it after all?
His father has told the court of his son's 'anxiety issues', and difficulty sleeping and enjoying his favourite foods since the rape occurred. He wrote a letter to Judge Persky prior to the sentencing urging him not to punish his son for what was, after all, only '20 minutes of action'.
Judge Persky said he asked himself, prior to passing down the sentence:
Is incarceration in prison the right answer for the poisoning of (the woman's) life?
Apparently not, which is fascinating considering his use of the words 'poisoning of the woman's life'. He openly acknowledged one life had been abused, assaulted, and ripped apart by another person. One who showed no remorse, who claimed not to have committed the rape, who insisted that it was consensual sex, and who said he was too drunk to realise she was unconscious.
Who blamed alcohol for the crime.
That's the equivalent of blaming a bottle of gin when you get behind the wheel of a car and drive drunk, crash, and kill someone.
'It wasn't me, Your Honour... it was THAT BOTTLE THERE!'
I don't pretend to hold a disinterested position on this topic. I am a survivor of rape. This survivor's letter, which she read aloud and directly to Brock Turner during his sentencing, filled me with so much rage I had to look away from it several times. It also filled me with absolute awe and amazement at the courage and strength of this woman, facing this weak, spineless brat in court. To quote her:
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.
She has lived her nightmares. I hope she can start to sleep with the light off one day, and feel as though her body and brain and heart belong together, because she, as Eleanor Roosevelt so wisely said, is inferior to nobody, because she gave no consent.
What troubles me more than anything, I think, in the fallout from this case, is what has happened with the law at the heart of it. Brock Turner was not sentenced appropriately for his crime. It's as simple as that. He raped a woman. He raped an unconscious woman, he left her unconscious next to a dumpster in the dirt, and he has been sentenced to six months in county jail. Possibly.
This is not the rule of law. It is the rule of lore. It is the result of privilege, and a closing of ranks by upper-middle class educated men around one of their own. It is a travesty of a system that I have had a great deal of faith in, and which I wish I could continue to hold in esteem.
All I can think of, as I struggle with the washing-machine of darkness this woman's suffering has brought up, is Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. Seem strange? Perhaps. But think of the Law of the Jungle, as taught to every wolf cub, along with Mowgli, and Grey, and all good Boy Scouts and Cubs across the world:
Now this is the Law of the Jungle - as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back -
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.
This has been the Lore of the Jungle, and this wolf?
His pack has closed ranks around him, and is protecting him well.
For once, I am on the side of Shere Khan. If a tiger comes prowling past Brock Turner during his brief stint in county, and happens to catch him without his pack -
Then that will be true Jungle Law. And a little bit of justice, with a small j, served.