Thursday, 9 June 2016

Opposing the Lynch Mob

Sexual assault survivors and otherwise sensitive readers may be disturbed by the themes in this post.

Yesterday my only tasks were to clean the flat, do the shopping and prepare a special supper for a party of eight. It's a miracle I managed them all, for once again I was glued to the internet reaction to the Brock Turner sentencing. Now I'm surprised that I never stumbled across the case when the trial started. Honestly, I had never heard of it until the Victim (as she is called in the police report) read her brilliantly written, heartbreaking testimony to the court and it was published online.

If your first acquaintance with the Brock Turner Story is the Victim's testimony, the story in your head will differ from the story in the heads of those who  read about it from the witness statements the police recorded. No wonder the woman was so traumatized by what she read online. I read the police reports yesterday, and they were metaphorically soaked in urine and booze. Cheap and nasty booze.

The party the Victim went to was in a frat house, named in the official report, and having read this report I now understand why Turner and Turner's dad emphasized the college culture of booze and promiscuity.  That said, the fact that Turner was drunk and promiscuous is not an excuse. It does suggest, however, an explanation. It provides the answer to Why did a 19 year old a dozen people swear was gentle and sweet rape an unconscious woman?

To understand the story, you need to read two documents: the Victim's testimony and the police reports.  Maybe you need to read Leslie Rasmussen's letter, but only if you want to know what Brock Turner was like (or was perceived to be like) before he went to Stanford University. The police reports contain statements about what he was like on the night of the rape: aggressive and wanting to "hook up" with a girl. (Any girl.)

To understand Leslie Rasmussen's remarks to the judge, one needs to have read the police reports and her subsequent statement. In my opinion, having read the police reports, she gets the alcohol stuff right, but she glosses over Brock's promiscuity. She attempts to answer "Why did a sweet and gentle 19 year old I've known most of my life rape an unconscious woman?" Clearly unable to grapple with the idea that even habitually sweet and gentle people can be incredibly and even criminally selfish about their sexual wants, she blamed the booze. Hoping to save a boy she believed was sweet and gentle from a long stretch in an American prison, where he would most definitely not be okay, she hung onto a "shades of grey" notion about drunken sex.  For this--or rather, because "a source" slipped a New York journalist her letter-- she has attracted the ire of the American public, which I think really is political correctness gone mad.

The villain of the story, after Turner, who not only raped a woman, he put her through the humiliation of his trial, is the media,  and I include anyone who puts fingers to keyboard about this trial and writes untruths. I have read outright lies about the Turner family and outrageous speculation.

One big issue is class, which in the USA means money and privilege. I have read that Brock Turner had a free ride at Stanford. He didn't. His scholarship covered only 60% of his Stanford education/swimming servitude. I have read that the Turners are rich. They aren't. Brock's grandparents wrote to the judge that they are on a "fixed income" and can't help Brock's parents, who, though hard-working, are only middle-income. Brock Turner is guilty of rape, but he is not guilty of wealth. Nevertheless, there are journos and keyboard warriors whipping themselves up into hatred of the rich boy.  Meanwhile, the actual victim doesn't hate Brock Turner.  I wouldn't have been surprised if she did, but she doesn't.

I've read that although Brock's mother hasn't said anything, she must have approved her husband's letter to the judge. Really? We need to hate his mother, too?  We are going to make up stories about a silent woman? We're going to substitute our voices for hers? What we think she wants is more important than what she really wants? Gee, what does that remind me of?

Anyway, I hope this is my last rant about the Rasmussen---I mean, the Brock Turner Trial. I have great admiration for the Victim not only because she stood up for herself but because she is such a talented writer she moved millions of people.

I have great sympathy for Leslie Rasmussen, who expressed her thoughts badly and is unfairly being crucified for it. Gone are the days when rock musicians sported swastikas or bit the heads off chickens and their fans yelled "Cool."  Political correctness shows no mercy even to young people who express loyalty to their friends (in my youth a supreme value) and try to get them out of trouble with Johnny Law (another old-fashioned value).

Incidentally, as I expected, I was called "an apologist for rape" for defending Good English. I shall put it among my trophies, i.e. names I have been called while exercising my freedom of speech.

I have also great hatred for the stupidity and debauchery of campus parties that feature so much consumption of alcohol (cheap and nasty alcohol that you wouldn't drink for the taste) that even girls end up going outside to pee on trees, and boys and girls make out with multiple people on the same night. What the hell is that? If parties are so boring that you need to drink to blackout, kids, don't go.

I feel very sorry for the Victim's sister. Know why she wasn't with the Victim? She was seeing a dangerously intoxicated female friend home. The poor girl was running around trying to take care of all the drunk women she cared about and, unsurprisingly, she failed.  This was not her fault, this was not her fault, this was not her fault.

My disgust with men, however drunk, who do what they want with the bodies of women without the woman's say-so should go without saying. Every time I see Brock Turner's goofy face, I want to slap it.  However, as a Christian, I recognize that it's the act we need to condemn, even though justice demands that we punish the wrong-doer. The Victim's statement was not about Brock Turner being a bad guy. It was about the Victim being a human being who deserves to be treated with dignity.

Update: Online media knows the public is angry, and online media acknowledges that the public enjoys and wants to be angry. Take this question from, for example, "Want to get even more pissed off?" My answer is another question: "Are you profiting from my anger?"

Update 2: The various people writing in comboxes that they hope Brock Turner is raped in prison are not even just "rape apologists." They're rape promoters, and they should be ashamed of themselves.


  1. Turners family may not be rich, but a successful college athlete is at the top of the class hierarchy while playing the sport. A lot of very bad behavior gets dismissed. Johnny Manziel (Jonny Football) had lots of alcohol related charges disappear because he was a Heisman winner. I said before he got a very light sentence, where I think even a light nonathlete would have received a harsher punishment.

    A notable exception is the Duke LaCrosse case.

  2. Yes, I remember the Duke lacrosse case, and the Heisman trophy rings a faint bell. I have no idea who Johnny Manziel is. Must Google.

    If the system is unfair--and it certainly seems to be--then this must be addressed. Quite clearly, justice has not been done in the Turner case.

    I have to confess, I've felt a little sorry for American college athletes since I went to BC. (I feel sorriest for those in the seriously dangerous sports, like American football.) Those kids are making millions and millions for their colleges with their bodies, often putting their bodies at risk, for no salary. Yes, they get the "privilege" of what would be an otherwise expensive university education, and yes, in many sports this is a necessary step towards a professional sports career. But these boys and girls are used as a means to a financial end, and nobody seems to protect them from the pressures of the office. My impression I got at BC is that nobody gave a damn for the morals--and the immortal souls--of the athletes.

    For me the question to ask after "Did he get such a light punishment because the justice system privileges athletes?" is "Did his status as a college athlete play a role in his choice to commit the crime?" Is American college sport a school in vice?

    1. Yes, it is unfair to the athletes. If they get hurt they lose the scholarship. It is clear that they are there to win and make money for the schools. The only one in administration that might care for the players are the coaches. It is sad.

  3. *That said, BC certainly cared about their grades.

  4. I read through the police report; beyond all the alcohol that was being consumed, I was surprised by how many people didn't know each other and who didn't even go to the school. It all seems to be part of this mythical 'university experience' that I've heard high-schoolers/first-year undergrads talk about. I'm not entirely sure what they're getting at, or if they just mean the ability to party, drink, and not be in direct supervision of their parents. Really boggles my mind; I don't know, maybe they all need to go out and work for a year or two to be able to afford the partying when they do eventually go to uni?
    What really got me about the defendant's plea for a light sentence was that he was going to become a speaker against campus alcohol. Really?!? It just seems like a smarmy way to travel around, 'mea-culpa-ing,' and incidentally proving that you can get away with rape. I'm not sure if that was the kid's idea or someone else's, but I think that had the greatest 'ick-factor' for me, beyond the actual assault.

    1. I think "university experience" IS a myth when it means the Coolest Party Ever, whether that is some "Animal House" type kegger or the plovers' egg lunch in "Brideshead Revisited." After thinking about this off and on for about 20 years, I think the best way to approach university is as if it were a JOB--or at very least an apprenticeship program.

      I recall having a snotty idea that university was to make you a cultured person, not to train you for a job. I was wrong. It should be both. You become a cultured person WHILE you train for a job. Many arts institutions have student discounts and there are able opportunities to study abroad, which is an incredibly enriching experience.

      Even though I realize now that the "rib eye steaks" were probably a luxury that threatened the household budget, I was icked out more by all the "my son can't eat" and "my life is over" stuff from Turner Pere et Fils. That said, it worked on the judge, didn't it?

      I hope this case and the furor tattoos "Do not sexually touch people who are too drunk to give consent" to everyone's brain.

    2. I went to a number of parties that were cool in the Animal House style back in the early 1980s. They were far more controlled, at least in terms of who was able to attend them, than the ones I read about in news stories of American fraternity houses and so on. Most of the ones I went to took place on campus and non-students were severely discouraged from attending, making discipline easier. Even the manger of our college pub checked ID and threw out any non-students who tried to gate-crash. Perhaps that's because we were so close to the Jane-Finch corridor, notorious then (and now?) for being rough and dangerous.

      The *practical* problem with American college parties, the one that leads to so many disasters, is that American students are not allowed to drink until age 21. This means that they can only have parties at which alcohol is consumed in private houses and 'frat' houses, which means that overseeing who attends and how much alcohol is consumed is very difficult. Going to parties and dances on the York campus, I was always attended by a whole group of both male and female friends, all of whom watched out for the female members of the group. At parties off-campus, I went to the houses of friends where I had one nasty experience that had nothing to do with alcohol as far as I could tell.

      Alias Clio

    3. Jane-Finch is still notorious. I think you are right about the problems with the drinking age. If it were 18, as it is in the UK (and Quebec, if memory serves), universities could serve it to the majority of students in controlled circumstances--and make some money, by the way. Another problem is that American college culture seems to view alcohol primarily as a mind-altering substance. Appropriate enjoyment of, and responsible use of, alcohol should be taught in the home. If parents noisily condemned Miller Light (or whatever) as poison and extolled craft beer, children would get the message that cheap beer is bad, and good beer is meant to be savoured. (Responsible American parents teach their kids gun safety, why not teach their kids alcohol safety?) Same goes with wine. Meanwhile, it may startle both American and British girls to know that Italian and French women are almost never seen drunk in public. Great swathes of Europe frown on drunkenness, even or especially in the young, who should have been brought up to know better.

  5. The villain of the story, after Turner, who not only raped a woman, he put her through the humiliation of his trial, is the media, and I include anyone who puts fingers to keyboard about this trial and writes untruths. I have read outright lies about the Turner family and outrageous speculation.