Murphy: On rape and the stubborn defense of the indefensible (column) |

Murphy: On rape and the stubborn defense of the indefensible (column)

On Jan. 18, 2015, Brock Turner raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Despite having been convicted of three felonies in the case, he’s been sentenced to only 6 months in prison, of which he’ll only serve only 3.

Brock Turner raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, and he will serve 3 months in prison.

A fellow student of Turner’s, Saunders Hayes, wrote an op-ed published in the Stanford Daily that criticized calls for harsh sentencing for the rapist. Hand-waving the impact on the victim, Hayes claims that “Incarceration (of a rapist) neither heals a victim’s trauma nor affirms their dignity,” and that those calling for harsh punishment “lose the moral high ground of protecting victims.”

Mr. Hayes, your comments are misguided and dangerous. You falsely equate calls for justice with calls for vengeance. You claim insight that you do not possess into the mind of someone who has been raped, with regard to what will help heal trauma and affirm dignity. Educate yourself, please — go read the incredibly brave and eloquent statement that the victim read aloud in court to the man who raped her.

Turner’s childhood friend Leslie Rasmussen also wrote a letter in his defense. She claims that the rape is simply a result of “idiot boys and girls having too much to drink … and having clouded judgment.”

Ms. Rasmussen, your comments are misguided and dangerous. Rape is not a justifiable consequence for any type or level of intoxication. Neither does any type or level of intoxication and its accompanying “clouded judgement” justify the action of rape.

How should one respond if faced with a situation where a friend has raped someone? By minimizing the severity of the rapist’s actions and conflating the problem of binge drinking with the problem of rape? Or by expecting that person to be held fully accountable for his actions?

Before the sentencing, Brock Turner’s father called the possible consequences of his son’s rape of a woman “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of (Brock’s) 20 plus years of life.”

Mr. Turner, your comments are misguided and dangerous. Your son’s life prior to his decision to rape in no way mitigates his violent, disgusting, reprehensible crime. This was not a case of vandalism or trespassing or a petty theft. He made the decision, and he deserves consequences. Sir, think again about what you’re referring to when you say “20 minutes of action.”

A former girlfriend of Turner’s wrote, ““I have never been so angry with God in all of my life, for instilling such pain on such an undeserving soul.” She’s talking about Turner.

My children will grow up knowing that nonconsensual sex is an act of violence; that it is not OK to do to anyone else — ever, under any circumstances — nor is it OK for anyone to do it to them. That rape is always the fault of the rapist, never of the victim. They will grow up equipped with tools that rapists like Brock Turner, his apologists and so many others obviously lack. They will know how to respond to sexual violence — not in ways that are misguided and dangerous, but in ways that promote healing for victims and accountability for perpetrators. Their generation will do for sexual violence what others have done for other issues of basic human rights.

Here in Summit County, Advocates for Victims of Assault serves as a resource for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. If have experienced these kinds of violence, we are here to help. You can call our hotline 24/7 at 970-668-3906. Our local Title IX contacts at Colorado Mountain College are Dave Askeland, vice president, 970-989-1312, and Nicole Fazande, associate dean of academic and student affairs, 970-968-5805. Nationally, you can call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual-assault service provider in your area. Anyone can also visit for more information and resources related to sexual assault in Colorado.

Rob Murphy is the executive director of Advocates for Victims of Assault in Summit County.

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