The One Huge Omission From Brock Turner's Statement To The Judge
Days after his sentencing, The Guardian released Brock Turner's statement to the judge regarding his case, in which the former Stanford athlete was convicted of three counts of felony sexual assault to an unconscious woman. In his statement, he blames the events of January 17, 2015 on "excessive drinking," and mentions that he wants to change people's attitudes toward "the culture surrounded by binge drinking and sexual promiscuity." He says that he would take it all back if he could, and not drink, let alone interact with the unnamed victim. He describes in detail the effects the case has had on his life and his wellbeing, and how the sentencing will affect him in the long-term. He manages to say just about everything he can about the case and own experience without saying the one thing at the very heart of it: sexual assault.
It might seem somewhat impossible to write a statement defending yourself against felony sexual assault without using the words for the crime you were convicted of, but the language in Turner's statement very carefully edges around it all the way to its end. Here is an excerpt from the beginning of Brock Turner's statement:
The night of January 17th changed my life and the lives of everyone involved forever. I can never go back to being the person I was before that day. I am no longer a swimmer, a student, a resident of California, or the product of the work that I put in to accomplish the goals that I set out in the first nineteen years of my life. Not only have I altered my life, but I’ve also changed [redacted] and her family’s life. 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 every day 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.
And here are all the words in that excerpt alone that Brock Turner uses to refer to the assault, instead of saying what he actually did:
- "The night of January 17th"
- "what happened on the night that these people’s lives were changed forever"
- "my actions"
- "this event"
- "these ideas"
- "these thoughts"
- "these horrific events I have caused"
- "my poor judgment and ill thought actions"
- "the course of events I took on January 17th/18th"
This pattern continues throughout the course of Brock Turner's statement. Despite the fact that nearly all of these phrases could be replaced with the words "My assault against [unnamed victim]," the crime for which he was convicted is never mentioned in his statement about the crime itself. It is clear from this blatant omission that he still has not taken full responsibility for his actions, and no sentence quite sums it up as well as one toward the end of his statement:
I would make it my life’s mission to show everyone that I can contribute and be a positive influence on society from these events that have transpired.
Even when he is appealing to the judge that he will use the experience from his assault against the unnamed victim to better society, he does not acknowledge what happened that night for the assault that it was — but rather, "events that transpired," a phrase distancing himself from the crime so thoroughly that it reads as if he might not have been there at all.
In similar poor taste, the majority of the statement outlines the negative consequences the assault has had on his life, rather than the unnamed victim, who is only mentioned four times in his statement. It is clear throughout the course of his statement that he is still prioritizing his own needs above the victim's. In a powerful impact statement from the victim released June 5, she wrote:
Unfortunately, after reading the defendant’s statement, I am severely disappointed and feel that he has failed to exhibit sincere remorse or responsibility for his conduct. I fully respected his right to a trial, but even after twelve jurors unanimously convicted him guilty of three felonies, all he has admitted to doing is ingesting alcohol. Someone who cannot take full accountability for his actions does not deserve a mitigating sentence.
The mitigating sentence the unnamed victim refers to is Brock Turner's sentencing of six months in county jail versus the 14 years he could have spent in prison, a lenient sentence that has sparked public outrage and dozens of petitions for a recall effort. Judge Aaron Persky said a longer sentence would have a "severe impact" on Turner; unfortunately, it seems based on his statement that the real impact that Turner needs — his remorse and ability to take responsibility for his assault against the unnamed victim — has yet to be made.
Images: Pixabay; Courtesy of the Santa Clara Sheriff's Office