By Niraja Surendran
On a crisp September morning, former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner walked out of a country jail in Santa Clara, California. By now, you’ve probably heard of Turner – who was recently convicted of assaulting an unconscious woman, “Emily Doe” – and the court case that took both the news and social media by storm. For his crime, Turner should have faced a maximum of fourteen years in prison. Instead, he received six months in a country jail. Already, Turner is out on the streets after serving half of his term, though he will have to register as a sex offender and serve three years of probation after returning to his hometown in Ohio. Many feel as though Turner’s sentence was insultingly light. Unfortunately, such minor consequences are common in college and high school sexual assault cases.
The same sort of leniency in court rulings is mirrored in the Austin Wilkerson case. Wilkerson, who raped a fellow University of Colorado-Boulder student when she was helpless, ended up getting no time behind bars. Though he should have faced a minimum of four years in prison and a maximum life-term, Wilkerson was instead sentenced to two years on work release and twenty years’ probation. His attorneys argued that the rape was traumatic for Wilkerson, and the fact that he could not become a practicing doctor anymore and would have to make do with a career as a biochemist was “punishment enough.” Instead of focusing on the trauma the victim faced, the judges chose to focus on the supposed trauma a criminal faced after perpetrating a heinous crime. Instead of trying to understand how incredibly difficult it is for the victim to move forward with her life and lead a healthy future, the judges chose to focus on this criminal’s potential career.
Unfortunately, these are only two of the many, many cases in which the victims are not being served justice while their attackers receive laughably little jail time. However, the national attention these horrible incidents have received may soon bring about changes to ensure such mistakes aren’t repeated. For example, California Assemblywoman Nora Campos strongly believes that Brock Turner deserved a harsher sentence, and has coauthored the AB 2888 bill with fellow Assembly-member Rob Bonta in order to help make sure that such injustices will not happen once more. The AB 2888 bill aims to rectify Californian law so that a person convicted of sexual assault in the state cannot be sentenced to probation. Supporters of the bill hope it will not only increase the amount of time such criminals will spend in jail, but also place those who commit sexual crimes behind bars.
Meanwhile, the brave victims of these heinous crimes – from Emily Doe to the young woman in the Austin Wilkerson case – remind us that it is our duty to fight against wrongdoing and fight for justice. We hope they will all persist through the struggle and continue to show the world what it means to be a survivor.