Social media has done it again. Brought to the world’s attention a piece of news that has started a wildfire of discussion about one of society’s biggest issues: Rape.
Unless you live under a rock, you’ve likely read all about the case of Stanford University student Brock Turner who last week was sentenced to six month’s county jail time for the sexual assault of an unconscious woman behind a dumpster in 2015.
The story has ignited a storm of controversy all over the world after his victim shared her full impact statement that she read to the court before his sentencing.
The outrage erupted after Buzzfeed last week posted the story, "Here Is The Powerful Letter The Stanford Victim Read Aloud To Her Attacker." In the post, Buzzfeed shared the entire 7200-word letter written by the victim.
The harrowing statement condemns Turner’s refusal to take full responsibility for his crime, where he blamed alcohol, campus party culture and promiscuity for the events that occurred. It details the trauma the victim experienced after she woke up in hospital covered in blood and pine needles, with no recollection of what had happened to her.
The post went viral almost immediately, with more than 10 million online views in a matter of days. According to Buzzfeed, the original story got the majority of views from ‘social word of mouth’.
As the story spread, countless articles have appeared online with constant updates being shared over social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter.
Moreover, CNN host Ashleigh Banfield dedicated the majority of her Legal View show on Monday to the case, reading the entire letter on air, taking up two thirds of the show’s segments.
While Turner’s crime itself has obviously caused condemnation, it’s his light sentence that has caused the majority of outrage seen online.
In March 2016, Turner was convicted of three counts of felony sexual assault: 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.
He was discovered by two Stanford university students ‘thrusting’ on top of an unconscious, half naked woman behind a dumpster outside a frat party. Turner ran and the two students tackled him.
Turner faced up to 14 years’ prison time for his crimes. Instead, Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky dished out a six-month county jail sentence, saying that a longer sentence in prison would “severely impact” the college swimmer’s life.
“Obviously, the prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” Persky said in court. “The defendant is youthful and has no significant record of prior criminal offenses.”
The judge also said that because the swimmer was intoxicated at the time of the attack, he should be treated differently than a sober defendant.
“There is less moral culpability attached to the defendant who is … intoxicated,” the judge said.
Good behaviour means turner could be out of jail in three months.
The ‘slap on the wrist’ sentence has been blasted online, with calls for Persky to be removed from his post.
Turner’s lawyers have since appealed the case.
Yesterday, Republican Congressman Ted Poe demanded an appeals court overturn Turner’s sentence.
“Mr. Speaker, I was a criminal court judge and prosecutor for 30 years, this judge got it wrong,” he said.
According to BuzzFeed News, Poe says he’s glad the “arrogant defender” has appealed the case as it will give the court an opportunity to give him a harsher sentence.
“As a country, we must change our mentality and make sure that our young people recognise sexual assault and rape for the heinous crimes that they are,” Poe said.
Hundreds of thousands of people have signed online petitions asking for Judge Persky to be removed from the bench.
More news followed. At sentencing, in a letter to the judge, Turner’s father said his son had already paid a steep price for “twenty minutes of action”.
In his letter, Dan Turner notes his son’s high GPA and athletic ability, and the “devastating impact” the case had on the swimmer.
"I was always excited to get him a big ribeye steak to grill, or get his favorite snack for him. [...] Now he barely consumes any food and only eats to exist. These verdicts have broken and shattered him and our family in so many ways," he said.
Stanford law professor Michele Dauber posted an excerpt from the father’s letter on Twitter, causing further outrage across social media.
Dauber has since launched a formal campaign to recall the judge from office, as well as a change.org petition calling for him to be removed from the bench, which has already garnered nearly one million signatures.
A Google search on Brock Turner shows more than 7,790,000 results.
While his sentence may not reflect the severity of his crimes, at least social media has done what it does best and has made this news go viral. As a result, discussions around rape culture have been brought into the spotlight, and everyone now knows who Brock Turner is and what he did.
And the internet never forgets.