Petula Dvorak: The privileged face of the campus predator

By Petula Dvorak comment

Brock Turner, right, makes his way into the Santa Clara Superior Courthouse in Palo Alto, California. Photo / AP
Brock Turner, right, makes his way into the Santa Clara Superior Courthouse in Palo Alto, California. Photo / AP

Bring it on - the brilliant smile of a Stanford swimmer with Olympic dreams, the happy privileged face of a white college kid named Brock Turner. Another picture of him smiling, please.

Because this is what a campus sexual predator looks like. And that's the truth too many people refuse to acknowledge. It's the most difficult part of the campus rape culture destroying the lives of so many young women: acknowledging who their rapists are.

Turner, 20, was convicted of sexually attacking an unconscious woman behind a rubbish bin at Stanford University after a campus party. It was a violent, brutal attack, and he was caught by two passersby, who tackled him when he tried to run away.

The rape charges were dropped because it was Turner's fingers, along with dirt and pine needles, that went inside his victim, not his sexual organ. Was that calculated on his part? Was he trying to avoid leaving his DNA in her body?

The jury convicted Turner of sexual assault, which doesn't sound quite as horrible as rape.

But let's forget the legal terms and look up the word rape in the dictionary. Merriam-Webster defines it as "unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent." I'm good with that as a solid definition of what he did.

Then last week came the judge's sentence. Turner faced up to 14 years in prison. Prosecutors asked for six. Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky, who also walked the knolls of the gorgeous campus in California as a student, worried that anything more than six months in the local jail would have "a severe impact on him".

Well, yeah. That's what jail is supposed to do.

There is now an effort underway to recall Persky for that outrageously light sentence and for his let-me-help-this-fine-young-man commentary. Bring it on. Because this is what a judge who protects predators looks like, too.

The judge did not talk about the severe impact the attack had on the victim, which is what his concern in the courtroom should be. The woman, who's 23, spoke for herself, describing, with searing eloquence, what Turner had done to her.

Turner has yet to take responsibility for the attack. His father, Dan Turner, wrote an astonishing letter to the judge arguing that his boy should receive probation and no jail time at all.

"His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve," he wrote. "That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life."

Let's talk about this "action".

Turner was caught by two bicyclists who didn't know his swim times or his Olympic aspirations. What they saw was an intoxicated young man hip-thrusting a corpse-like woman on the ground behind a dumpster in the dark. When they yelled at him, he ran.

If the sex was consensual - as Turner and his supporters insist it was - why run?

One of Turner's childhood friends, Leslie Rasmussen, wrote a letter on his behalf, attributing Turner's conviction to "political correctness".

"I don't think it's fair to base the fate of the next ten + years of his life on the decision of a girl who doesn't remember anything but the amount she drank to press charges against him. I am not blaming her directly for this, because that isn't right. But where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn't always because people are rapists."


"This is completely different from a woman getting kidnapped and raped as she is walking to her car in a parking lot. That is a rapist. These are not rapists. These are idiot boys and girls having too much to drink and not being aware of their surroundings and having clouded judgement."

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky. Photo / AP
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky. Photo / AP

This is the problem. The notion that rapists aren't anything like Turner. They're not smart and accomplished. They're not polite and friendly. They're not friends or sons or classmates.

There has been a lot of outrage that Turner's booking photos weren't released with his arrest or conviction. They were released on Tuesday. But the demand for them was misguided - part of the idea that rapists are evil-doers who lurk in the shadows, in alleys and parking garages. No.

Bring on the photos of rapists looking their best. Show us Andrew Luster, heir to the Max Factor fortune, looking suave before his 2003 rape convictions. Toothpaste smile, designer clothes.

Give us DuPont heir Robert Richards IV in his blue blazer before he's convicted of raping and molesting his daughter.

Show us Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw in his police uniform, the way he was dressed when he raped all those women on his beat.

This is what rapists look like.

Now look at the smiling photo of Turner. This is what campus sexual predators look like, America. They are young men we know, and young men we trust. And when they are convicted of destroying lives, they must pay for their crimes.

- Washington Post

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