From recent verdicts in some high-profile campus sexual assault cases, it is apparent that those convicted of such heinous crimes are receiving punishments far too lenient; and the lifelong trauma their victims experience is not being properly considered.
Former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner was released from jail for good behavior Sept. 2 after serving just 90 days of his six-month sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster at a fraternity party.
During Turner’s trial, his father wrote a letter to Judge Aaron Persky asking for a less harsh sentence, suggesting probation instead. In the letter, he describes his son as “(having) no prior criminal history and has never been violent to anyone including his actions on the night of Jan 17th 2015 “ and writes that “(the verdict) is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life. “ He also explains how a harsh sentence will affect his son’s future college life as an athlete.
Rape should not be described as “20 minutes of action. “ It is a life-changing traumatic event for the victims and to brush it off as such is a disservice to them. Also, not once in the letter does Turner’s father mention the victim and how the rape could have changed her life.
Unfortunately, Turner is not the only one who received a short sentence for his crimes.
In May, University of Colorado-Boulder student Austin Wilkerson was convicted of sexually assaulting a defenseless victim after being accused of raping a woman at a St. Patrick’s Day party in March 2014. He was only sentenced to two years of work release and 20 years to life on probation.
The Huffington Post’s Aug. 10 article “No Prison For Colorado Student Who Raped Helpless Freshman“ reported that Wilkerson’s friends and family called for the court to consider his future as this was a “traumatic incident “ for him and that if not for the this incident, he would have achieved so much in this world.
Rape is a serious offense, and neither victim-blaming nor pity for accused rapists should be accepted. Both men received outrageously mild sentences for their crimes. According to the Washington’s Post June 6 article “What makes the Stanford sex offender’s six month jail sentence so unusual, “ the majority of convicted rapists are sentenced to an average of 11 years in prison.
In the aftermath of these cases, discussion on the reformation of sexual assault laws have opened. On Aug. 29, California legislators voted to pass a bill that would amend current sexual assault laws to add mandatory prison sentence for sexual assault cases.
Previously, only cases with the use of force required a sentence, while those with no use of force where victims were unable to defend themselves did not. If the proposed bill becomes law, this would be a step toward changing rape culture.
However, this bill is only for California. National lawmakers need to re-think our current sexual assault laws. Rape is rape no matter what, and there is no excuse for either men’s serious crimes.