Last week, Brock Turner was sentenced to six months of county jail and probation for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman in 2015. Sadly, that is not a typo. He faced up to 14 years in prison, prosecutors asked for six years, and he received six months. Also not typos are some of the tragically tone-deaf headlines about Brock Turner, which focus on his accomplishments prior to his actions on Jan. 17 and 18 in 2015 — accomplishments which have no bearing on his actions that night. They do not lessen the fact that he assaulted someone, and they do not excuse him from it. Downplaying the crime for which he was just sentenced in favor of playing up his past athletic achievements is a disservice to everyone.
Yet here we are. Despite the fact that Turner was found guilty on felony charges of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated or unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person, and penetration of an unconscious person, he received a veritable slap on the wrist. In fact, for his crimes — which will likely haunt his victim for years to come — he is expected to serve roughly three months. And despite his victim's harrowing and gut-wrenching 12-page account of the aftermath of the assault, headline after headline about the case highlights Turner's character, as opposed to his crime. Because that's what rape culture does.
These headlines about Turner unfortunately put far too much emphasis on him and far too little emphasis on his victim and on the larger problems with how our society views and treats sexual assault.
Turner was found guilty of three felony assaults on an innocent and unconscious woman. Are we seriously talking about what Brock Turner deserves?
2. NBC News
There aren't enough words in the English language to emphasize that Turner's swimming career and/or collegiate career do not matter here. Not only does this headline call attention to his accomplishments as opposed to his crimes, but it also neglects to even reference the nature of his crime — in essence creating empathy for him, while diminishing the gravitas of what he did.
3. Fox 2
"Former Stanford swimming star?" And what the actual eff does his crime have to do with him being at a frat party? Campus drinking culture isn't the issue here. Campus rape culture is.
Twitter user Farrah Khan perfectly summed up the problem with this headline when she tweeted, "Why did @washingtonpost unnecessarily emphasize perpetrator #BrockTurner achievement? #usetherightwords? #rape." Again, what he did before that night doesn't excuse what he did that night, and he certainly doesn't get a pass from stigmatic qualifiers just because he's a really good swimmer.
Is this headline purposefully ambiguous, or was it just an oversight? Either way, it's troubling that there is no mention of the crime that was committed in the "Stanford case." Plus, the phrasing "father's plea" feels intentionally chosen to elicit a sympathetic reaction for the perpetrator of the crime.
It isn't enough to prioritize this guy's accomplishments over his abhorrent actions that night; this headline seems to underscore just how massive Turner's potential was. He was a three-time All-American swimmer. Coincidentally, he now also has three felony convictions to match his three irrelevant-and-inconsequential-to-this-case-in-any-way-shape-or-form titles.
Glancing at this headline, you wouldn't even know that Turner assaulted a woman. But hey, you do know that A) he went to Stanford, B) he was a collegiate-level swimmer, C) he has a father advocating for him, and D) he was sentenced to six months in jail for an unnamed crime. Once more, he is given a narrative, while his victim is stripped of hers.
8. CBS News
Or to put it in terms that wholly represent the case at hand, "Sex assault victim to her attacker: 'Assault is not an accident.'" We should not care if he went to Stanford. We should not care if he was or is a swimmer. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. There is no context in which he should be referred to in headlines in terms of his collegiate extracurriculars.
Images: The Mercury News; NBC News; Fox 2; The Washington Post; St. Louis Post-Dispatch; New York Post; Fox 4 Kansas City