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The Real-life Impact of Brock Turner’s Crime

Jun 09, 2016

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The story of Stanford University freshman, Brock Turner’s paltry 6-month jail sentence (3 months of which may be suspended) for sexually assaulting a young woman in January 2015 has made headlines. Rightfully so, there is outrage at the appallingly light jail sentence, handed down to a 19 year old privileged college swimming star whose father, in an appeal for judicial mercy, equates his son’s loss of appetite for his favorite snacks as a level of deep suffering that warrants leniency.

There is much to be said about this tragedy of justice, but one particular comment from Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge, Aaron Persky, in defense of his sentencing decision for Brock Turner continues to make my blood boil. In defending his sentencing decision, Judge Persky stated, “ A prison sentence would have severe impact on him.”

With all due respect, Judge Persky, please allow me to educate you on the real-life meaning of the term, “severe impact.”

Imagine living each day of your life fearing, believing, and trying to outpace the knowledge that you are not safe. Knowing that you now live in a world where those with greater physical strength, a sense of entitlement, and very little, if any, respect for the personhood of others can overpower and violate you at will.

Imagine each day wishing desperately for the respite of sleep to block out the world yet fighting the urge to sleep for fear of the darkness that brings the terror that comes from the violent nightmares that wake you screaming and fighting for air.

Imagine going through this life with a nearly debilitating sense of self-doubt and uncertainty which, over time, opens wide doors to depression. Struggling each day to act like things are okay on the outside while the pain and fear held inside threaten to turn your world upside down.

Imagine hearing again and again from your friends and those who know you best that you’ve changed, that you just don’t seem like yourself anymore. Watching relationship after relationship fade away as the vulnerability and closeness necessity to maintain connection feels claustrophobic and terrifying. It’s easier to move away than to be close, leaving you feeling alone and isolated.

And perhaps most upsetting of all, imagine struggling to walk through each day with the pervasive sense of shame and filth that no amount of scrubbing can remove. Trying in vain, each day, to rid yourself of the horrible stench of your abusers touch. Waking up each day to again try to convince yourself that, despite what everyone tells you, it really wasn’t your fault.

For you see, Judge Persky, this is the ongoing legacy of each and every individual whose body has been sexually violated. Regardless of the circumstances of the violation, the impact is not only severe, it lasts a lifetime, most certainly more than 6 months. The imprisonment created through the selfishly heinous acts of one perpetrator on just one night sentences its victim to a prison that offers no clemency or even time off for good behavior.

In this light, or possibly any light, Brock Turner’s consequence of the loss of his swim scholarship and 6 months of jail time for his criminal act seem ridiculously miniscule and inconsequential. I, for one, am not in the least concerned about the severe impact to this entitled non-remorseful young man. My heart aches for his young victim and for every victim of sexual abuse who struggles to live and to heal each day in the wake of this most intimate and punishing violation.

By Janice Palm, MA, LMHC, Shepherd's Counseling Services Executive Director

 



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