Who Are The Swedish Stanford Students Who Stopped Brock Turner? These Heroes Know They're Not The Focus Of The Story
In her moving speech at Brock Turner's sentencing, one of the points that the woman Turner sexually assaulted made was how thankful she was to have been rescued by two passersby, two men she had not met personally. So who are the Swedish Stanford students who interrupted the assault? The two heroes in the Brock Turner case are now known, and their names are Peter Jonsson and Carl-Fredrik Arndt. But both men say that they should not be the focus of the story.
"I want to know," the woman in the Turner case writes in her letter to Brock Turner, "if those [two men] had not found me, how the night would have played out. ... I don’t sleep when I think about the way it could have gone if the two guys had never come." The woman in question, whose name has remained private, first encountered Turner at a party; he later sexually assaulted her behind a dumpster while she was unconscious, but was stopped in the act by two men riding by on bicycles who noticed what was happening and stepped in. (Turner was sentenced to six months in county jail and probation on June 2 for three counts of felony sexual assault.)
The two men in question have kept a low profile, even as the story of Turner's arrest, conviction, and lenient sentence have gained national attention. Both testified at the trial and were crucial in securing Turner's conviction, but they say they don't want to be treated like heroes.
Arndt, who is a Stanford Ph.D candidate, and Jonsson, who recently earned a master's degree in management science and engineering, are both from Sweden; so far, though, they have stayed away from the media spotlight. Arndt gave an interview with the Swedish paper Expressen in which he described the attack and said he was very moved to read the letter the victim read in court. "Obviously, it is a great joy to be able to help her," he said, in Swedish.
Jonsson has not spoken with the press but did post a link to the letter on his Facebook page.
"At this point I will not publicly comment on the process or the outcome of the trial," he writes. "However, I do ask all of you to spare a few minutes and read this letter written by the Victim [sic]."
And their focus on the woman who is the true heart of this story might just be the thing that is most admirable about both men.
Both Jonsson and Arndt are heroes in this story, and there is no question about that. They stopped, in the middle of the night, to confront a stranger in order to help someone they had never met. They kept the perpetrator from fleeing, without which he might never have been caught. They called the police. They stayed with the victim until help arrived. And all for someone they did not know. It is absolutely heroic.
But it's also true that Jonsson and Arndt aren't at the center of this story. The person at the center of the story is the woman who was attacked. And while it is so much easier and more comfortable to think about the two dashing heroes sweeping in to save the day, the focus in the Turner case should — as Jonsson notes — be on the victim. Her ordeal is far less pleasant to contemplate, but by speaking out and sharing her side of the story, she's done something incredibly brave, and it's immeasurably important that we all pay attention.
Still, it's incredibly comforting that, even in the midst of the many disturbing aspects of the Turner case, there are still people out there who are good.
"I sleep with two bicycles that I drew taped above my bed to remind myself there are heroes in this story," the woman in the Turner case wrote in her letter. "That we are looking out for one another."