Last Thursday, a judge sentenced 20-year-old Brock Turner to six months in a county jail and three years’ probation after he was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman in January 2015. Turner will also have to register as sex offender for the rest of his life.
Before his sentencing, Turner wrote a defence letter to the court, obtained by The Guardian. In it, Turner, previously a star athlete on Stanford University’s swim team, describes how his life has changes since the events of January 17th.
“I’ve lost two jobs solely based on the reporting of my case,” he wrote. “I wish I never was good at swimming or had the opportunity to attend Stanford, so maybe the newspapers wouldn’t want to write stories about me.”
The letter offers a glimpse into Turner’s reaction to his conviction. While he expresses some remorse about the assault, he blames Stanford’s “party culture” for much of what occurred.
I wake up having dreamt of these horrific events that I have caused. I am completely consumed by my poor judgment and ill thought actions …. I’ve been shattered by the party culture and risk taking behaviour that I briefly experienced in my four months at school. I’ve lost my chance to swim in the Olympics. I’ve lost my ability to obtain a Stanford degree. I’ve lost employment opportunity, my reputation and most of all, my life.
Those words likely ring hollow to the victim of Turner’s attack, referred to as Emily Doe to protect her privacy.
“You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today,” Emily wrote in her own letter to the court.
Her powerful letter explaining the aftermath of the attack has gone viral. She wrote:
You cannot give me back the life I had before that night either. While you worry about your shattered reputation, I refrigerated spoons every night so when I woke up, and my eyes were puffy from crying, I would hold the spoons to my eyes to lessen the swelling so that I could see.
Defendants often write letters to the court in hopes of lesser sentencing, and Turner’s words may have resonated with Judge Aaron Persky, who presided over the case.
“A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others,” Persky told the court.
The night of the assault, two graduate students saw the incident occurring behind a garbage bin outside of a fraternity house at Stanford University. When Turner tried to run, the graduate students pinned him down until the police arrived.
You can read Turner’s full statement here:
The night of January 17th changed my life and the lives of everyone involved forever. I can never go back to being the person I was before that day. I am no longer a swimmer, a student, a resident of California, or the product of the work that I put in to accomplish the goals that I set out in the first nineteen years of my life. Not only have I altered my life, but I’ve also changed [redacted] and her family’s life. I am the sole proprietor of what happened on the night that these people’s lives were changed forever. I would give anything to change what happened that night. I can never forgive myself for imposing trauma and pain on [redacted].
It debilitates me to think that my actions have caused her emotional and physical stress that is completely unwarranted and unfair. The thought of this is in my head every second of every day since this event has occurred. These ideas never leave my mind. During the day, I shake uncontrollably from the amount I torment myself by thinking about what has happened. I wish I had the ability to go back in time and never pick up a drink that night, let alone interact with [redacted]. I can barely hold a conversation with someone without having my mind drift into thinking these thoughts. They torture me. I go to sleep every night having been crippled by these thoughts to the point of exhaustion. I wake up having dreamt of these horrific events that I have caused. I am completely consumed by my poor judgment and ill thought actions. There isn’t a second that has gone by where I haven’t regretted the course of events I took on January 17th/18th.
My shell and core of who I am as a person is forever broken from this. I am a changed person. At this point in my life, I never want to have a drop of alcohol again. I never want to attend a social gathering that involves alcohol or any situation where people make decisions based on the substances they have consumed. I never want to experience being in a position where it will have a negative impact on my life or someone else’s ever again. I’ve lost two jobs solely based on the reporting of my case. I wish I never was good at swimming or had the opportunity to attend Stanford, so maybe the newspapers wouldn’t want to write stories about me.
All I can do from these events moving forward is by proving to everyone who I really am as a person. I know that if I were to be placed on probation, I would be able to be a benefit to society for the rest of my life. I want to earn a college degree in any capacity that I am capable to do so. And in accomplishing this task, I can make the people around me and society better through the example I will set.
I’ve been a goal oriented person since my start as a swimmer. I want to take what I can from who I was before this situation happened and use it to the best of my abilities moving forward. I know I can show people who were like me the dangers of assuming what college life can be like without thinking about the consequences one would potentially have to make if one were to make the same decisions that I made. I want to show that people’s lives can be destroyed by drinking and making poor decisions while doing so. One needs to recognise the influence that peer pressure and the attitude of having to fit in can have on someone. One decision has the potential to change your entire life.
I know I can impact and change people’s attitudes towards the culture surrounded by binge drinking and sexual promiscuity that protrudes through what people think is at the core of being a college student. I want to demolish the assumption that drinking and partying are what make up a college lifestyle I made a mistake, I drank too much, and my decisions hurt someone. But I never ever meant to intentionally hurt [redacted]. My poor decision making and excessive drinking hurt someone that night and I wish I could just take it all back.
If I were to be placed on probation, I can positively say, without a single shred of doubt in my mind, that I would never have any problem with law enforcement. Before this happened, I never had any trouble with law enforcement and I plan on maintaining that. I’ve been shattered by the party culture and risk taking behaviour that I briefly experienced in my four months at school. I’ve lost my chance to swim in the Olympics. I’ve lost my ability to obtain a Stanford degree. I’ve lost employment opportunity, my reputation and most of all, my life. These things force me to never want to put myself in a position where I have to sacrifice everything.
I would make it my life’s mission to show everyone that I can contribute and be a positive influence on society from these events that have transpired. I will never put myself through an event where it will give someone the ability to question whether I really can be a betterment to society. I want no one, male or female, to have to experience the destructive consequences of making decisions while under the influence of alcohol. I want to be a voice of reason in a time where people’s attitudes and preconceived notions about partying and drinking have already been established. I want to let young people now, as I did not, that things can go from fun to ruined in just one night.
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