An Open Letter to Dan Turner, father of convicted rapist Brock Turner: Here’s What’s Unfortunate

Dear Mr. Turner,

Your son, Brock Turner, is a convicted rapist.  The facts of his crime are not in dispute:  Brock sexually assaulted an intoxicated woman behind a dumpster.  He was caught by two men who realized that a crime was taking place and who thus not only intervened but held your son until police arrived to take him into custody.

Despite your assertion to the contrary, Brock Turner was, in fact, violent to another human being on January 17, 2015.  He was convicted of 3 felonies.  Your response?  To hold up as a role model for other college students.  You are quoted in multiple media outlets saying that “…having people like Brock educate others on college campuses is how society can begin to break the cycle of binge drinking and its unfortunate results.”

Rape is not an “unfortunate result” of your son, Brock Turner, having one beer too many, Mr. Turner.  Rape is the crime committed by your son against another person, who has painfully and eloquently described the lasting impact of your son’s brutal attack. Your son, Brock Turner, is a convicted rapist who violently attacked another human being, and unless that is what he is going to say to the college students you claim he can “educate”, what they will learn is that sexual violence against women is simply an unfortunate result of boys-being-boys and having a good time at a party.  Yes, Brock was drunk.  But his victim was unconscious.  Unconscious people cannot consent to sex, and that is rape.

What would his message be, Mr. Turner?  “My dad said I shouldn’t have gotten jail time!”?  “Judge Aaron Persky felt bad sending someone like me to jail <sad emoji>”?  “What you call rape, I call sexual promiscuity – but you know what those co-eds are like…”?

Here’s what is truly unfortunate, Mr. Turner:  your son is in good company.  Recent studies have demonstrated that as many as one third of college men report that they would rape a woman – or force a woman to have sexual intercourse against her will (they are a little unclear sometimes that those are the same thing) if they could do so without consequences. And male college athletes are right there in the mix.

Dan Turner, you, and your enthusiastic endorsement of your son’s right to rape, are the best evidence we could offer that the only thing to be learned from this is that we need a radical response to rape and sexual assault.  We need to punish offenders and teach women and girls to defend themselves, both of which send a strong cultural message – that rape and sexual assault will not be tolerated, and that the consequences to the rapists will be severe.  Self-defense training might not have helped the woman your son Brock raped, but we know it helps others both defend themselves AND intervene to help others, like the two young men who intervened while Brock was raping that young woman.  It reminds women and men that women are entitled to their boundaries – a cultural shift that is, as your statements and the statements of others show, is sorely needed on campus today.

And yes, we need to change people’s attitudes, but, as you so eloquently demonstrate, the goal is not for all of us to see things the way you and your son and Judge Persky do.  It’s to get people on board with the fact that rape is a crime, that justice for rape victims should be swift and consequences to rapists severe, that 20 minutes lasts a lifetime.

It’s not just unfortunate that you and Brock Turner and Judge Persky don’t get that, Dan Turner.  It’s criminal.

Jill Cermele and Martha McCaughey


7 responses

  1. Very-well said. Wow…

  2. #NotJust20 I agree, “20 minutes of action” is just the beginning of a possible lifetime of ramifications for being the survivor of sexual assault or rape. And of course, assaults often last way longer than 20 minutes.

  3. WomanWhoWeaves | Reply

    McWhorter study in 2009 showed that 13% of Navy enlistees reported behaviour that met the legal definition of rape at the time of enlistment, dating back to their early adolescence in some cases; and when studied over time, 71% of those repeated the behavior after joining the service. They frequently used substances to incapacitate their victims and their victims were known to them.
    Lisak study 2002 average rapist leaves 14 victims in his wake, knows his victim and has groomed them to some extent.

    1. Thanks for mentioning these studies! The Lisak study actually found that repeat rapists report about 6 victims on average, and 14 acts of interpersonal violence. But as your point suggests, there is data on which we must draw in our understanding of sexual assault, to allow us to better challenge the myths that are rampant in popular culture.

  4. Yes, yes, yes. Except that I’m pretty sure his father’s statement regarding “binge drinking and its unfortunate consequences” was intended to mean that the *victim* had too much to drink and that’s why this all happened. Which makes it even more awful.

  5. Great response! I am more than ready for change to occur in this area. The father’s comment about 20 minutes of a crime shows how clueless he is about the PTSD rape victims suffer, often for the rest of their lives. I still struggle with sleep close to twenty years after I was raped. I was raped in South Korea working as an English teacher. I wrote about my response to this case in my blog.

  6. Martha McCaughey | Reply

    Thank you for sharing this powerful piece, triciabarkernde!

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