Brock Turner’s Dearth of Character (Updated)


Brock Turner. This is a name I am sure most, if not all, are aware of by now. The crime perpetuated by Turner, the controversy surrounding his sentencing, and the requisite righteous indignation and gnashing of teeth have become ubiquitous over the past several weeks. To review, 19-year-old Stanford University student and member of the Stanford swimming team Brock Turner raped his unconscious, 22-year-old victim in an alley behind a dumpster. Two Stanford University graduate students happened to be riding their bicycles on campus by this alley during the time of the rape, witnessed the crime in action and intervened, tackling Turner and calling the police. Turner was officially arrested on January 27, 2015 and charged with five counts of felony sexual assault. This past March Turner was convicted on three charges of felony sexual assault. He faced a maximum of 14 years in state prison, and he would have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Instead, on June 2nd Turner was given 3 years’ probation and 6 months in county jail, with the possibility of cutting that number in half with good behavior. Why?

Brock Turner was a young man with tremendous potential who only made a mistake which should not have a severe impact on his life and future. So argued the presiding judge in the case, Aaron Persky. This one, twenty minute mistake should not dictate the future of this young man argued Brock’s father, Dan. By his own admission, this action made Brock Turner depressed, unable to eat or participate in his usual activities. Peer pressure to consume alcoholic beverages and drugs and the prevailing sexual culture of college forced him to act in a manner he otherwise would never have dreamed. Of course he was sorry for what he did, but it wasn’t really him. It was the alcohol and pressure to engage in sexual activity with which he was overwhelmed, never having experienced such things in rural Ohio.

Drugs, alcohol, even peer pressure have been empirically demonstrated to reduce inhibitions and alter decision-making, but to the point of rape? According to the most recent statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2012 there were an estimated 84, 376 forcible rapes in the United States. Of these it is estimated almost 14 million are females between the ages of 18 and 24. Approximately 5 million of these females were students while the others were not. The victim of Brock Turner was not currently a student at Stanford University but had been previously. That would appear to be a lot of peer pressure. However, perhaps the circumstances of Brock Turner were unique. Not all perpetrators are themselves college students. Not all of these crimes take place on a college campus. It is possible the universe of rapes cannot accurately apply to the local.

So let’s take a look more locally. In 2014, the most recent data reported and one month before Brock Turner raped his victim, Stanford University reported 26 sexual assaults, or about one every two weeks. While this may seem like a lot (really any more than zero is too many), most experts believe only about one in five sexual assaults are actually reported. Therefore, assuming Stanford accurately reported all sexual assaults which had been reported to them (which is unlikely), there were approximately 130 sexual assaults on the campus of Stanford University in 2014, or 2.3 rapes every week. Maybe Brock wasn’t so alone in succumbing to peer pressure. Maybe his claims and apologies and thereby the rationale of Judge Persky and Dan Turner is at least somewhat validated.

That is until you consider the fact that in 2014 Stanford University enrolled 16,770 students. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that in 2014 37.9 percent of college students aged 18 to 22 engaged in binge drinking (5 or more drinks on an occasion) in the past month. This means that approximately 6,356 students of Stanford University engaged in binge drinking in 2014. Of course, it is possible that graduate students would not take part in this activity, would not allow themselves to be so susceptible to peer pressure, and do not qualify as peers to Brock Turner. Therefore, let us count the 6,999 reported Stanford University undergraduates as the universe of cases. Then again, only 3,666 of these 6,999 were male. As a result, in the end we have 37.9% of 3,666 male, undergraduate Stanford University students who engaged in binge drinking, or about 1,389 individuals. This is where Brock’s case begins to fall apart.

If our universe of estimated rape cases for Stanford University in 2014 is 130 that would indicate that less than 10 percent of the 1,389 binge-drinking, male, undergraduate Stanford students (our Brock peers) are would-be perpetrators. Add to this the fact that it is very unlikely that those 130 individual rapes are committed by 130 different individuals and that percentage drops precipitously. If we can place the estimate at maybe 5 percent of our pool of 1,389 we arrive at 69 would-be perpetrators. But then we must take into consideration that researchers have consistently found that approximately one-half of all sexual assaults committed by men who have been drinking alcohol. That places the pool at 35 if we round up. 35 potential would-be rapists who simply could not control themselves under the pressures of alcohol and sex. 35 out of 3,666, or less than 1 percent of male undergraduates at Stanford University. Less than 1 percent of Brock Turner’s peers could have been peer pressured into committing rape. And that’s probably unduly and unfairly including numerous individuals who are not would-be perpetrators.

So it would appear that over 99 percent of Brock Turner’s peers at Stanford University can avoid raping someone. Peer pressure did not rape Brock Turner’s victim. Alcohol did not rape Brock Turner’s victim. A culture of sexual promiscuity did not rape Brock Turner’s victim. Brock Turner raped his victim. Brock Turner made the decision to take his victim behind a dumpster in an alley and rape her.

However, let’s take another moment to consider the circumstances. Brock Turner was drunk. Brock Turner probably did feel some pressure to engage in sexual activity. His inhibitions were probably lowered and his decision-making negatively affected by his alcohol consumption and pressure from his peers. But if we do take these factors into consideration we also must take into consideration and cannot ignore how many other people, people similar to Brock Turner, are placed in very similar circumstances with alcohol and peer pressure and do not rape anyone. Do not even consider raping someone. Over 99 percent. If Brock Turner’s inhibitions and decision-making were so severely altered so as to rape someone, what was his baseline? How dismal, how low were his morality, character and constitution to have alcohol and peer pressure drop them even further to the point of raping an unconscious woman in an alley behind a dumpster?

Given an individual with such dearth of character, how are we to believe his account of his actions? How are we to believe his so-called apology? How are we to believe this was simply one mistake, only “20 minutes of action” in 20 years as Dan Turner declared? We aren’t. Not only did Brock Turner lie about his past with alcohol and drugs, but such statements merely represent justification for the horrible actions undertaken by Brock Turner and under very little examination we can see these statements by father and son for exactly what they are, ridiculous. They are an insult to every college student who would never consider raping someone, much less actually commit the crime. More importantly they are an insult to the victim. They are an insult to every rape victim.

Finally, take into consideration that in the United States there is a sexual assault every two minutes. As one tragedy bleeds into the next and the newest thing that bleeds takes over the news cycle, let us not forget this tragedy. Every rape is a tragedy and the American record of sexual assaults represents a national crisis. Don’t forget the victims of sexual assault. Don’t forget the victim of Brock Turner. This one act may have only been 20 minutes for Brock Turner but guaranteed the physical and perhaps even more importantly the psychological damage to the victim has lasted and will continue to last much, much longer. Certainly longer than the 129,600 minutes Brock Turner will most likely serve in jail. Brock Turner has demonstrated he is a bad person of low character and deserves to pay a steep price and have his life and future affected by his actions.

Update (9/2):

Take into consideration everything written above and everything else which has been written detailing Brock Turner’s crime. Think about what Turner did to that woman.

Think about it the ridiculousness of the whole case. The statements made by Brock Turner’s father. Statements made by Brock Turner’s lawyer. The statement made by the judge who sentenced Turner to a six-month sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.

Now think about the fact that Brock Turner was released from jail this morning for “good behavior”. He served three months.


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