Brock Turner’s scarlet letter

June 9, 2016, 11:59 p.m.

“I know YOUR name. Your name is Brock Allen Turner. I know your name, and I know what you did to her. I am going to do something to you that is worse than jail, Brock Allen Turner. Actually, we all are. All of us who are enraged at what you did. We are going to put you in a new kind of jail. We are going to splatter your name and face across social media so that everyone knows who you are and what you look like. So that everyone knows what you’ve done. Let us gather, as a community, on behalf of this woman, with our torches and pitchforks, ready to put Brock in his place. Notoriety. That’s your jail, Brock. Everyone reading this? Share it. Share it for the picture and the name. We’ve got our torches and pitchforks ready. We know who you are. And we are watching you. Remembering your face. Remembering your name. Putting up invisible walls around you, boxing you in, shutting you out. Shunning you. So, Brock, how does it feel to be violated?”

Kristen Mae


It’s been an emotional week for those of us who subscribe to the BREAKING NEWS STANFORD RAPIST BROCK TURNER Internet news channel. The victim in the Turner case has proved herself to be a wonderfully strong, eloquent young woman, who has suffered greatly, but was still able to speak out as a symbol of hope to girls everywhere. Her statement was unbelievably tragic and moving and has reached over 11 million views in its first four days of publication on BuzzFeed alone, a remarkable feat given that, all too often, the victim’s voice is silenced.

I would encourage all readers to sign this petition, advocating for much needed reforms on the Stanford campus. It is our moral responsibility to advocate for sexual assault prevention programs and counseling resources for victims. Despite my open letter to the Stanford community last week decrying harsh punishment and retributive violence, I’d like to state for the record that Stephanie Pham and Matthew Baiza are doing amazing work to help transform our community. I commend them on all their hard work and their incredible passion for justice but still maintain that long prison sentences are not the answer.

On Thursday, Brock Turner received a six-month sentence in Santa Clara County Jail and three years of probation. Judge Aaron Persky, citing Turner’s remorse and other “unusual” circumstances, condemned him to county jail, rather than state prison, a lighter sentence than many had hoped for. Ironically, Santa Clara County Jail is one of the most dysfunctional incarceration facilities in the state. Recently, three guards have been charged with murdering a mentally-ill convict. Confidential interviews have revealed widespread evidence of abuse, and officers are rarely held accountable for inflicting pain and suffering on inmates. These details are sickening and affect all inmates serving time in the facility, not just Turner. We often underestimate the savagery of incarceration, no matter the duration.

Before the sentence was given, Turner presented a statement to the court where he expressed great remorse:

“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 everyday 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 judgement 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.”

Turner is also quoted as saying:

“I’m sorry for her having to go through this entire process and having to even think about this for a second, all because of my actions that night. I can’t believe I imposed such suffering on her and I’m so sorry.”

In his statement, Turner placed partial blame on alcohol and party culture, but also expressed great remorse for the victim’s pain. Unfortunately, the media have willfully ignored much of his statement in an effort to depict Turner as a cold-blooded rapist who got off easy. Capitalizing on his white, male privilege, the media have concocted a new villain: Brock Turner – The Entitled, All-American Poster Boy for Evil. As a consequence, Turner has been fried, skinned and eaten alive by every method of mass communication imaginable. Turner now wears the 21st century Scarlet Letter, a psychological torture and a prison in its own right.

As Americans, we must all realize that our trials are filled with hyperbolic rhetoric. Some countries provide anonymity to defendants, but in the United States, the birthplace of the 24-hour news cycle, we parade the accused around like supervillains and chop them to shreds in the media. Defense attorneys paint their clients in an unrealistically positive light that helps them dodge as much responsibility as possible. The prosecution vilifies the attacker as the most heinous person in the world and presents the victim as flawless. Attorneys are well-accustomed to this big, time-consuming game and go to extremes until everyone is beaten to a pulp and exhausted. The truth in the Turner case likely lies somewhere in between these extremes, and we must never forget that.

When we take these bombastic distortions at face value, we instinctually dehumanize the perpetrator. We use words like “cold-blooded rapist,” “predator” and “monster” so that we can justify violence against a young boy. This week, I’ve been absolutely stunned by those fighting to protect the rights of victims as they call for revenge rape, 14-year prison sentences and brutality against Turner’s family and Judge Persky. For the first time in my life, I fully understand how a lynch mob operates, and frankly, I’m appalled.

Last week, I called on the Stanford community to practice empathy for others. Now, I call on the world to practice basic decency towards another human being. Hate and revenge are never the answer. Vengeance is exceedingly detrimental to creating safer spaces for everyone. Brock Turner has done a terrible thing, but he is not pure evil. He has shown remorse and a desire to redeem himself. If we are sincere in our advocacy for rehabilitation over retribution, then we should give him that opportunity.


– Saunders Hayes ’16

Contact Saunders Hayes at sbdhayes ‘at’

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