Consent, Rape, Agency & Privilege

WARNING! This is sensitive!

And, yes, this is CRAP!

The big news for the past week is the Stanford swimmer who raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster and received a sentence of six months in jail.

Story here

Woman’s statement here 

I don’t want to talk about the rape. If you are able to read the woman’s statement, you will find that she has captured the vulnerability of being violated in all of the ways that a rape violates you—your body, your soul, your privacy, your confidence, your future —and REviolates you if you go through a court trial. She can speak for herself.

I don’t want to talk about the rapist. Nothing can undo what he has done and he has to live the rest of his life knowing who he is and what he did. I hope it bothers him and that he is motivated to change. I fear that won’t happen, especially after the judge trivialized everything to the level that he did. I still hope.

I don’t really want to talk about the judge.*

I want to talk about the ruling.

The details of this rape expose the actions of a man who has no regard for women and who used and violated a woman who had no ability to give consent. She was an object to him. He used her in the very place he threw her away. She was, quite literally, garbage to him.

As part of the ruling the judge had this to say:

“A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” Persky said at Turner’s sentencing on Thursday. “I think he will not be a danger to others.”

Did the judge mean to say this guy wouldn’t hurt anyone ELSE?

The woman who was raped could not remember the attack. Read in her own words how she found out what had happened to her (from her statement and edited to remove the most graphic details):

One day, I was at work, scrolling through the news on my phone, and came across an article. In it, I read and learned for the first time about how I was found unconscious, with my hair disheveled, long necklace wrapped around my neck, (description of violations)…. by someone I did not recognize. This was how I learned what happened to me, sitting at my desk reading the news at work. I learned what happened to me the same time everyone else in the world learned what happened to me. .… I don’t even know this person. I still don’t know this person. When I read about me like this, I said, this can’t be me, this can’t be me. I could not digest or accept any of this information. I could not imagine my family having to read about this online. .…

And then, at the bottom of the article, after I learned about the graphic details of my own sexual assault, the article listed his swimming times. She was found breathing, unresponsive with her underwear six inches away from her bare stomach curled in fetal position. By the way, he’s really good at swimming.

I want to talk about the ruling.

Six months.

Six months for rape.

Six months for rape of an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.

No matter how many times I say or hear it I just can’t wrap my brain around it.

Six months because the guy is good at swimming and the judge didn’t think he’d hurt anyone.

This ruling is INSANE!

Six months of which he will probably only serve 3 months . . . and he won’t need to go to prison. He can serve that in the local jail.  And now he’s appealing!

And then my head exploded . . .

Did the judge really think that this action was done without enough empathy and understanding of how much it would hurt her? Because if that is the case I’m terrified.

When I talked about this case with my daughter and her friends I validated her outrage and encouraged her to rage on, because this is rage-worthy! I also shared my perspective after being part of this society for as many decades as I have.

What I hear in this ruling is not that the judge really thinks that this sick rapist isn’t going to hurt anyone else.

What I hear in this ruling is that the judge had the opportunity to give a white, athletic, college kid at a good school a chance to achieve his potential.

And even more than that, I hear a judge paying it forward.

Please do not misread me — I am not accusing this judge of having raped someone under these or any circumstances. What I mean is that somewhere along the line this judge did something—could be anything—that had the chance to dramatically impact his life. When he did, someone was in a position to give him a break and a second chance and he went on to achieve something. I mean, look at him, he’s a respectable judge now!

This judge connected to something in this young Stanford swimmer standing before him and saw the opportunity to give him a second chance to make something of himself.

That is not an inherently bad thing. There are so many times when someone who can empathize with your plight and extend you some mercy can give you that needed second chance. In this case it was done by excusing such a heinous crime that the absurdity would be hysterical if it wasn’t so horrific. This young man was privileged to have a judge in a position of authority who could be gracious with him, regardless of what he was accused of, because in some way the judge had been there, done that, and knew how important it was to get that second chance when he did.

“Prosecutors had asked for Judge Persky, a Stanford alumni, to sentence Turner to six years in a state prison. The maximum for the three felony charges – assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object – was 14 years.

In justifying the six-month sentence, Judge Persky said positive character references written on Turner’s behalf, such as that given by his father, had factored into his decision. His age, his lack of a criminal history, and the role that alcohol played in the assault were also mitigating factors.”


Positive character references like the one given by his father — the one where he bemoans the fact that his son raping an unconscious woman has taken away his appetite — are what moved the judge to compassion. For a rapist. The rapist just doesn’t enjoy steak anymore but there is no compassion for the woman who will always live with the damage done to her without her consent. Did the judge even ask if she’s enjoying her steak? Did the judge care? Or does he agree that what happened was merely “20 minutes of action?”

The rapists dad is honestly standing before the woman his son raped and saying he’s suffered enough because he doesn’t enjoy steaks anymore. As if these two things are even in the same universe. She was raped. He got in trouble for raping her. He’s the victim. I can’t even . . . NO WORDS!

What is most disgusting is that the rapist’s father considers the “wrong” his son did, “20 minutes of action.” Not 20 minutes of raping an incapacitated woman. Not 20 minutes of the worst decision he ever made. “20 minutes of action.”

He even referred to the rape as sexual promiscuity. The definition of promiscuous is “characterized by or involving indiscriminate mingling or association, especially having sexual relations with a number of partners on a casual basis.” I have to wonder how many people you are having indiscriminate sex with that you don’t notice the one you’re currently shoving yourself into isn’t conscious and hasn’t given consent. Or maybe you’re raping so many women that you didn’t realize this one would say something.

Here’s the thing . . . this man SHOULD feel guilty for what he did. He SHOULD have trouble enjoying a steak after raping an unconscious woman. This is the only thing keeping me from asking if he’s a full out sociopath.

And all of this is being argued in front of “Judge Persky, a Stanford alumni

The judge couldn’t empathize with an unconscious woman who was raped. That had never happened to him. He didn’t grow up in the world feeling victimized or not having the opportunities he had as a Stanford student. He didn’t ever experience being at the frat party as a woman. He didn’t ever have anyone take his unconscious body behind a dumpster and insert foreign objects. In his mind she’s culpable — despite what the unanimous jury said. In his mind she’s the girl who showed up at the party, got drunk, and should have known that being there is the same as consent.

Except it ISN’T!

There is a lot of talk out there right now about women having agency, and about crimes like this robbing them of their agency. The issue of agency is that we, as women, are supposed to have the right to speak for ourselves. We get to have a voice in our own lives and make decisions about our own experiences.

The right to consent speaks to the Constitutional rights of life and liberty, not to mention the pursuit of happiness. Without it your life can be taken and you have no say. Without it your liberty can be infringed upon taking away your freedom and have no say. Without it you lack the opportunity to pursue happiness, because you certainly have no say about what may or may not bring you happiness.

This type of situation is where the right to agency and the ability to offer or withhold consent runs smack dab into the wall of privilege.**

Think about this rape and imagine yourself there. If you are already thinking that you wouldn’t have raped her you have identified a privilege.

Many of us imagine ourselves in that situation and we are fully aware we would be the rape victim. Or we find ourself triggered remembering the time we were the one being violated.

Far too many people seem to not get the fact that there should be NO assumption that a man will have sex with any woman at all — even his wife — without her enthusiastic willingness and freely offered consent. Why? Because to do otherwise is rape.

You read that right – if you don’t have consent then any penetration with any part of your body is rape.

Ignoring the importance of consent is robbing someone of their voice. Without a voice you have no agency. Without agency what is done is happening to you, not with you.

Privilege is about thinking you are entitled to something — like this rapist thought he was entitled to jam himself into an unconscious woman, and his dad’s assumption that his son is entitled to happily enjoy a steak while the woman he raped is living every day with the reality of what was done to her and what was stolen from her in the process.

I believe everyone should have privilege! I believe everyone should have a voice everywhere without fear of repercussion! There really is enough to go around.

The reason it doesn’t change anything to start listing all the ways your life has been hard as evidence that you can’t have privilege is that it’s given to you by those who can relate to you and your struggles. It’s something you give to others when you can relate to their struggles. It’s a kind of empathy that is great . . . except when it’s inclusive to ‘your kind.’ The only way to extend it to the “other” is to spend enough time getting to know them and learn about their struggles.

I have no doubt that in this man’s future he will bring up this situation every time he wants to prove that he doesn’t havep privilege. He will talk about how he was dragged to court despite being rich (by the state in defense of the woman he dragged behind a dumpster and violated). He will talk about how he had to go to jail even though he’s a great swimmer (but only jail and not prison, and for 3 months compared to Corey Batey who raped an unconscious woman but is black and is currently serving 15-25 years in prison). He will talk about how hard it was to not even enjoy a steak with his father. Poor baby.

He will probably not appreciate how much privilege he has because he believes he is entitled to more. But he got off so easy because he is privileged to be in a situation that the judge in his trial can empathize with.

The judge identified with the poor Stanford athlete who got drunk and did something so many guys before him have done.

The judge didn’t identify with the unconscious woman being raped behind a dumpster.

And that is a big ole pile of crap if ever I saw one.

*The judge identified with the poor Stanford athlete who got drunk and did something so many guys before him have done.

**The judge didn’t identify with the unconscious woman being raped behind a dumpster.

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