Two years ago, Superior Court of California Judge Aaron Persky sentenced the infamous Stanford rapist to six months’ incarceration in the Santa Clara County jail to be followed by three years of probation.
Brock Turner was released three months early, serving only three months for a brutal and violating act that Turner’s father reduced to “20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.” Turner was an aspiring Olympic swimmer, and on athletic scholarship at Stanford when he changed a life forever.
Turner’s victim, Chanel Miller, released an impact statement. It achieved over eight million views in three days. The statement described the various problems with the justice system, the ways Turner’s violation of her was affecting her everyday life and articulated her anger with the trial and leniency of Turner’s sentence. Miller also released a memoir in late September, entitled “Know My Name.”
When you read a book, you teleport into the world of it.
Usually, it’s fun and something to get lost in. This book was not. Teleporting into this book was a painful reminder of everything wrong with our justice system and our country.
It was a reminder of who the system is designed to protect, who the people in power see as the future of the U.S. and how little the pain of anyone else matters when caused by people in power. The reminder was necessary because these things are painful, and they need to be corrected.
In this book, Miller’s pain is more than palpable. Her pain becomes anyone who consumes her words’ pain. In the introduction, Miller confronts the harsh truth of our justice system, and everyone who enables the miscarriages of justice that sexual assault cases see so often. “I will use Brock’s name, but the truth is he could be Brad or Brody or Benson, and it doesn’t matter. The point is not the individual significance, but the commonality, all the people enabling a broken system.”
In her description of the actual trial, she was, “I had laid my suffering bare, but I lacked a key element. The judge had given Brock something that would never be extended to me: empathy.” And, in one of the most accurate descriptions of the way judges treat sexual assault victims I’ve ever seen: “My pain was never more valuable than his potential.”
Because Brock was an excellent swimmer, it was okay to ignore that he was also a rapist, which should have mattered more. Persky saw 90 days of county jail as enough punishment for the “poisoning” of Miller’s life. People serve longer for misdemeanors.
But, as Miller said, the justice system is broken. And the same people who constantly keep it in its unfair state rail against any attempts to change it. The system has chosen who it deems valuable: men like Turner, who, despite his vicious assault of someone which rocked the entire country, had such a bright future to think of. Miller’s pain couldn’t compare to the bright future Brock had, nor was it worth the ruining of said future.
We see this phenomenon in the justice system time after time, each time more disheartening.
Another example are the allegations Justice Brett Kavanaugh faced in the wake of his Supreme Court confirmation. Kavanaugh recently made his one-year anniversary of being on the highest court in the land. It’s also been a year since Dr. Christine Blasey Ford gave her testimony about his cruel assault of her during their time in high school together. Ford was victim-blamed and attacked throughout her testimony, even after it was proven credible.
Furthermore, the FBI was reported to have exhibited a lack of willingness to respond to several people contacting them with further information about Kavanaugh’s character, including other sexual assault allegations.
In the same old story, Kavanaugh’s potential was worth more than the pain of anyone he hurt. His sitting on the highest court in the land was more important than any sexual assaults he may have committed in the past because, after all, they took too long to speak up, right?
These miscarriages of justice in the country are not only wrong but speak to the lack of care the justice system has for assault victims and their pain. It is unacceptable to keep letting abusers get off essentially blemish-free.
Maya Stevenson is a 20-year-old English and Philosophy major from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.