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U.S. legal system fails survivor in Turner case

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Editor’s note: This weekly series highlights stories of women mentioned in the media. Find previous installments @ thetartan.org.

A little less than two years ago an anonymous woman was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner, a former swimmer at Stanford University. This past June, a significant amount of media coverage was given to the case when Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to serve a mere six months at Santa Clara County Jail, supported by the reasoning that a longer and harsher sentence would have a “severe impact” on Turner’s future given his age. On Sept. 2, 2016, three months after the start of Turner’s sentence, he was released early, having served just half of his criminally lenient sentence.

Turner has since returned home to Dayton, Ohio where he has to register as a sex offender for life, but he is a free man. Things seemed to have worked out better than Persky could have even hoped. A mere three months behind bars! That’s sure to mean an even less significant impact on Turner’s future. How nice for the both of them.

The biggest flaw with Judge Persky’s logic is that this case is not about what is best for the perpetrator. This case is about punishing and serving justice to a man who has committed a crime that will forever have asevere impact” on his victim. Turner’s best interests are not what should be at the forefront of his sentence.

The pain and suffering that Turner’s anonymous victim faced that night and in the many months following will remain with her for the rest of her life. But our legal system has told her that her anguish is only worth three months of discomfort for her rapist.

This woman made a choice to press rape charges against Brock Turner; a choice that many women don’t make because of how drawn out and painful this process can be. She made a choice to seek out justice. She had to struggle through more than a year of investigation and retell her story countless times to countless officials. Something like that does not get easier with time or repetition. Each instance of repetition is a stark and painful reminder of what has passed.

She understood how painful and long the process of accusing Turner through the legal system would be but she chose to do so in hopes that some sort of justice would be served. The United States legal system not only did her wrong, but also wronged the thousands of women who are victims of rape in the United States each year.

The letter that this incredibly strong woman wrote and read to her rapist in court made this case followed nationally. The conviction and sentencing of Brock Turner had the potential to serve as an example across the country of our nation’s intolerance to sexual abuse. Instead, it turned into a case highlighting corrupt judges and injustice in our legal system.

What cannot happen is for people to lose faith in the legal system and stop following sexual assault cases to their conclusion. Our country needs to make it clear that there is zero tolerance for rape, something it has not done well up to this point.

Men and women who are the survivors of rape must not be pushed to the wayside by our legal system. It goes against everything our legal system claims to stand for. It takes a lot of strength and courage to press charges of sexual assault, and there is no reason why this is something that should be made into an even more difficult and painful process by the court.