It wasn't supposed to have a "severe impact." But ironically, the six-month jail sentence handed down to a former Stanford University student facing up to 14 years in prison after he was found guilty on three counts of felony sexual assault has had exactly that: impact. The case has sparked a national dialogue on sexual assault, rape culture, and society's often problematic response to victims. The case has provoked responses from sexual assault survivors, from outraged citizens, from parents, from lawmakers, from celebrities, and even from the vice president. Many of the powerful responses to Brock Turner's sentence prove the world may finally be starting to take a stand against rape culture.
By now you've hopefully read the evocative letter from the woman Turner was convicted of sexually assaulting. It's a compelling testimony to the pain survivors of rape and sexual assault go through and a courageous demand to be heard from a group often made to feel they should keep quiet. If you've been following the case in any detail you've also likely read Turner's own statement to the court, in which he blames Stanford's "party culture" for his actions. And if you're really outraged about the whole thing it's almost a guarantee you've read the letter Turner's father read in court during his son's sentencing in which he reasons jail time is "a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action." All are important pieces to the story, vital for understanding why the legal case has garnered such debate.
The public has also had a strong reaction to the case. From demanding Judge Aaron Persky be recalled from the bench to demanding Turner's mugshot not escape public view, social media networks have been on fire with talk of some of the greater issues symbolized by the Stanford sexual assault case.
Here are 10 powerful responses to the Brock Turner sexual assault case:
The Cast Of HBO's Girls Questions Why We're So Quick To Disbelieve
Shortly after the Stanford case went viral, Lena Dunham, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, and Zosia Mamet came together in a short but poignant video encouraging a shift in how society responds to sexual assault survivors. "Why is our default reaction as a society to disbelieve?" Mamet asks. "What if we chose to turn toward those in need instead of away?" Holding hands, the actresses say, "We hope to represent the solidarity and support all survivors should be able to find."
Irish Artist Creates Flow Chart To Dispell #NotAllMen Arguments
When outrage over Turner's light sentence reignited the #NotAllMen movement, artist Ciara Kenny put pen to paper to explain once and for all (we hope) how the #NotAllMen campaign works to diminish the voices of sexual assault survivors. In an easy-to-read comedic flow chart, Kenny points out that PSAs aimed at curbing drunk driving or reckless speeding are not met with shouts of #NotAllDrivers! Why then are some so quick to shut down conversations on street harassment, rape culture, and violence against women with cries of #NotAllMen?
USA Swimming Bans Brock Turner For Life
USA Swimming, the American governing body of competitive swimming, hit Turner with a lifetime ban, meaning the former Stanford swimmer can say sayonara to a chance of participating in Olympic trials. Swimmers looking to compete in the Olympics must be members of USA Swimming to compete in officially sanctioned events like the Olympic trials. While Turner's membership with the national organization had lapsed at the time of his crime, a spokesperson for USA Swimming said his crime made him ineligible for renewing his membership in the future.
"USA Swimming condemns the crime and actions committed by Brock Turner, and all acts of sexual misconduct," USA Swimming spokesman Scott Leightman told ABC News. "Brock Turner is not a member of USA Swimming and, should he apply, he would not be eligible for membership."
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio Declares Himself An Ally
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, hosted a live reading of the letter written by the woman Turner was convicted of sexually assaulting. "Because we are her allies," McCray said in detailing why she and the mayor had gathered local government officials and actresses Cynthia Nixon, Karen Olivo, and Stacey Sargean to give a voice to the letter.
"In the time it takes us to read this statement at least seven women in this country will report being raped. That is not acceptable," McCray said. De Blasio's response didn't stop at the live reading of the letter. He's encouraged advocacy for rape victims and posted resources for victims and survivors on his official Twitter account.
The Vice President Commends The Woman Turner Sexually Assaulted For Her Bravery
Vice President Joe Biden has been an active advocate against sexual assault, so it's no surprise that the man behind the 1994 Violence Against Women Act and the White House's "It's On Us" campaign to stop campus sexual assaults had a few words for the woman Turner was convicted of sexually assaulting. "You are a warrior — with a solid steel spine," Biden writes in an open letter to the victim first published by BuzzFeed. "I am in awe of your courage for speaking out ... and I am filled with furious anger — both that this happened to you and that our culture is still so broken that you were ever put in the position of defending your own worth."
While Biden says he wishes the anonymous woman's letter were words she never had to write, he calls them required reading material for all men and women, pointing to their power and impact. "I see you," Biden writes. "I join your global chorus of supporters, because we can never say enough to survivors: I believe you. It is not your fault."
Female Lawmakers Voice Outrage Over Turner's Sentence
Senators Claire McCaskill and Kirsten Gillibrand have both voiced public outrage over Turner's six-month jail sentence. While McCaskill declared it an "inappropriate sentence" and publicly chided Turner's father for his attempt to characterize his son's sexual assault as "20 minutes of action," Gillibrand claimed the "short sentence sends the wrong message" to both victims and perpetrators, the Hill reported.
The two are sponsors of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, legislation that would penalize colleges and universities receiving federal funds for failing to report incidents of sexual assault on campus. The bill also aims to establish resources and support services for victims of campus assault.
Demands For Judicial Review Of Judge Aaron Persky
A petition to force the California Assembly to hold impeachment hearings for Judge Aaron Persky's decision to hand down a lenient sentence despite a unanimous guilty verdict on change.org has garnered more than one million signatures. It isn't the only attempt to see the judge who presided over Turner's case removed.
In the House of Representatives on Thursday, Republican Congressman Ted Poe called for Persky's removal, Turner's sentence to be overturned, and increased attention to sexual assault cases. "There's an archaic philosophy in some courts that sin ain't sin as long as good folks do it," Poe said. "The judge should be removed... Mr. Speaker, the punishment for rape should be longer than a semester in college... Our justice system must become better than this, our educational system must become better than this. Mr. Speaker, the punishment for rape should be longer than a semester in college. People must understand that rape is one of the most violent crimes a person can commit."
A Mother Uses The Stanford Case To Tell Her Own Sons What It Means To Be Real Men
In response to the now infamous "20 minutes of action" comment from Turner's father, New York Times bestselling author (and mother of six) Ann Voskamp penned a letter to her own sons in a blog post titled "About those '20 minutes of action': 20 things we'd better tell our sons right now about being real men."
Voskamp starts off firm, telling her sons, "Let's be real clear, boys — I'm never writing you a letter like the father of Brock Turner... Rape is not '20 minutes of action' — it's a violent act with lifetime consequences." In her response to the case, Voskamp argues instances of sexual assault don't begin with alcohol and a party, they begin with a parent "showing young men what it means to be a woman, showing every son what a woman is worth, teaching every son the value of a woman."
A Father's Response To Brock Turner's Father
North Carolina pastor John Pavlovitz sought, as one father to another, to remind Turner's father of who the real victim is in his son's sexual assault case. "This young woman will be dealing with this for far longer than the embarrassingly short six months your son is being penalized," Pavlovitz writes on his blog "Stuff That Needs To Be Said."
"She will endure the unthinkable trauma of his '20 minutes of action' for the duration of her lifetime, and the fact that you seem unaware of this fact is exactly why we have a problem," Pavlovitz continues. "This is why young men continue to rape women. This is why so many men believe that they can do whatever they please to a woman’s body without accountability. This is the reason so many victims of sexual assault never step forward."
A Man Who Gets It Dismisses The Argument That Alcohol Is To Blame
I don't know Matt Lang, but his personal response to how Turner's father defended him makes me think he's a man who gets it. "Even at my most intoxicated, I've never lost sight of the fact that rape is wrong, because I was raised to know it's wrong," Lang writes in a post he published to his Facebook last Monday. "No amount of alcohol can depress that value... Brock Turner and his ilk were never taught that. They were taught that they can have what they want, when they want, including women."
Lang defends those who have vocally and publicly criticized the comments of Turner's father, his friend, and the judge as their behavior is reprehensible. But to fix the greater issue at hand, Lang says we must start with what we teach our boys. "We need to love our boys, and teach them the dignity of the body, and how to live through disappointment and confusion, and how to navigate confusing feelings, and how to separate feelings from action, and how to communicate and listen. We need to redefine for them what it is to be a man, that their worth doesn't come from that which they have and take."