Opinion: More needs to be vetted with Stanford rape case
Dr. Andrew Whyman’s Opinion column in the July 1 edition of the Sierra Sun — “Did judge make right call in Stanford rape case?” — discusses the well-publicized rape case where the victim was a 22-year-old woman, and the rapist, Brock Turner, was a 19-year-old freshman at Stanford.
Turner is a white male from a privileged family, who was attending Stanford on an athletic scholarship. He was Stanford’s top swimmer, and an Olympic hopeful whose father said of his son’s crime that Turner’s sentence was, “A steep price to pay for twenty minutes of action.”
Turner’s family could be considered upper middle class by American standards, not wealthy, but certainly comfortable enough not to want for anything.
They have access to medical care, including psychotherapy; they have plenty of good food to eat, a nice home; I’m guessing two automobiles, several credit cards, and nice clothing.
They can likely afford to take vacations in places where privileged white people like to go to take vacations, ski resorts like Lake Tahoe’s, or Vail, or maybe even Europe.
So let’s review: Brock Turner, a white, upper middle class male, the top swimmer on Stanford’s swim team, attending Stanford University on athletic scholarship, rapes a woman with “a foreign object” — which, to me, adds an additional element of intent to harm — and runs when he is caught in the act of rape and the violent assault of his victim.
Judge Aaron Persky sentences Turner to six months in the county jail, and three years probation with the justification that, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him … I think he will not be a danger to others.”
Clearly he was already “a danger to others” — however, Judge Persky must have considered the victim among the “others.”
I agree with much of Dr. Whyman’s assessment; however, he is a highly educated white male, and in his opinion column, his perspective fails to include the following relevant facts and statistics:
1.) What might the sentence have been if the rapist (Turner) had been African-American or Hispanic? The statistics show that young men of color are more likely to be sentenced to prison if convicted of a crime such as rape and/or sexual assault.
2.) Statistics also show that collegiate athletes, particularly the “star” athletes, or professional male athletes are more likely to receive a slap on the wrist, e.g., lighter sentences and/or probation which could include community service of their choice.
3.) Psychotherapy is only successful when participants are able to fully appreciate the harm they have caused, and can demonstrate genuine desire to address their underlying mental illness or personality disorders. Anyone can pretend to be remorseful if they know that’s what the judges want to hear.
4.) The criminal justice system still re-traumatizes rape victims and insinuates or overtly states that rape is their fault by asking female victims questions such as, “What were you wearing?”, “Do you have a history of cheating on your boyfriend?”, “Are you sexually active?”, “Why were you at the party?”, and “Do you normally go out to parties without your boyfriend?”
In Jon Krakauer’s book, “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town,” the research and statistical information on how male athletes, especially white male athletes attending university because of their ability, are excused from committing violent sex crimes is very well assembled.
And, in Judith Herman’s seminal work, “Trauma and Recovery,” she quotes legal scholar Catherine MacKinnon, who said, “rape in America is not prohibited, it’s regulated.”
It is true that prison does not rehabilitate and is in fact more likely to result in recidivism, and psychotherapy is not usually successful with sociopaths or narcissistic individuals, because they do not have the insight or capacity for compassion.
For individuals who commit violent crimes against women and children, I would like to see community service in the form of hard labor. There is always plenty of garbage to clean up along freeways and highways; there are always rivers and lakes that need clean-up, wildfires that need to be contained, and other forms of labor that will serve the communities and would instill more humility and grace than any prison.
Oh, and maybe some educational stories from men on death row for rape and murder who have actually been able to discover the antecedents of their behavior. There is such a program at San Quentin called “Insight-Out,” led by Jacques Verduin.
Kimball C. Pier, Ph.D., LMFT, founded Sierra Agape Therapeutic Services in Truckee in 2010. She can be reached for comment at email@example.com.