If you're wondering what magic words former Stanford University student Brock Turner said to judge Aaron Persky that led to him being let off with just six months in county jail for sexually assaulting a woman while she was unconscious, it's just as pathetic as you might imagine.
Turner's full statement has been released. I wish I could say that the 23-year-old unidentified victim receives the apology she deserves. At this point, it would be gratifying to receive some small sign that Turner feels remorse that isn't tied to his own feelings of fear about his fate. But over and over again in this statement, a portion of which The Guardian released, Turner proves that he is completely missing the point in ways that call out his privilege and lack of compassion for others.
Yes, he admits that he caused people pain. He realizes he was to blame for his victim experiencing "emotional and physical stress," though he fails to see that "stress" is a word we use to describe the emotional state of college students during finals week, not one used when talking about a woman who had "long, pointed beaks" inside of her and her "vagina smeared with cold blue paint to check for abrasions" after he sexually assaulted and essentially left her for dead.
And then there's this line: "I’ve lost two jobs solely based on the reporting of my case. I wish I never was good at swimming or had the opportunity to attend Stanford, so maybe the newspapers wouldn’t want to write stories about me."
This young man obviously hasn't lived long enough to comprehend fully that he is neither the first, nor last, person with means to attend a well-regarded school or accomplish sporting feats in a small town that led him to believe he was very special indeed. Wealth, athleticism, connected parents, good schools, alcohol, wild college parties — none of these things make you a person who rapes a woman. Period. If you don't want newspapers to report on your horrific actions, don't commit horrific actions. And when an intelligent man who can eloquently describe his own pain refuses to apply the same weight in words to his victim, I refuse to believe it's because he doesn't have a way with words. The reason is because he still can't see that he poured acid on the value, worth, and future of another human being and then, instead of accepting the consequence that would provide her with some semblance of justice — which is really a pittance when you've lost yourself — he thought of how to get himself out of trouble.
Both the victim and prosecutor were reportedly unsatisfied with Turner's statement and felt it lacked any real and substantial remorse. The first two sentences alone are telling, what with his focus on how his life has been changed, how he can never go back to being the same person. The only hope I have for this man is that one day, after many years of honest reflection that can maybe only happen because he has been stripped of some of his privilege, he gets to a point where he loses himself enough to see his victim first. Even though that doesn't seem to have happened yet, Persky said: "I take him at his word that subjectively that's his version of his events. I'm not convinced that his lack of complete acquiescence to the verdict should count against him."
The victim provided an exclusive interview to The Guardian, in which she stressed how she felt Turner's statement was harmful.
“People need to know that this way of thinking is dangerous," she told the publication. "It’s threatening. More than my emotions, it’s my safety, everyone else’s safety. It’s not just me feeling sad and defeated. It’s honest fear. The anger everyone is expressing has so many levels of being hurt and feeling that fear. Anger is how a lot of us are expressing it, but it comes from a place of pain. It’s unacceptable. There’s no way you can wiggle out of this.”
Here's a portion of Turner's statement — the one he penned to attempt to "wiggle out of this" by asking for probation instead of jail time.
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. My shell and core of who I am as a person is forever broken from this. I am a changed person.
At this point in my life, I never want to have a drop of alcohol again. I never want to attend a social gathering that involves alcohol or any situation where people make decisions based on the substances they have consumed. I never want to experience being in a position where it will have a negative impact on my life or someone else’s ever again. I’ve lost two jobs solely based on the reporting of my case. I wish I never was good at swimming or had the opportunity to attend Stanford, so maybe the newspapers wouldn’t want to write stories about me.
All I can do from these events moving forward is by proving to everyone who I really am as a person. I know that if I were to be placed on probation, I would be able to be a benefit to society for the rest of my life. I want to earn a college degree in any capacity that I am capable to do so. And in accomplishing this task, I can make the people around me and society better through the example I will set. I’ve been a goal oriented person since my start as a swimmer. I want to take what I can from who I was before this situation happened and use it to the best of my abilities moving forward. I know I can show people who were like me the dangers of assuming what college life can be like without thinking about the consequences one would potentially have to make if one were to make the same decisions that I made. I want to show that people’s lives can be destroyed by drinking and making poor decisions while doing so. One needs to recognize the influence that peer pressure and the attitude of having to fit in can have on someone. One decision has the potential to change your entire life. I know I can impact and change people’s attitudes towards the culture surrounded by binge drinking and sexual promiscuity that protrudes through what people think is at the core of being a college student. I want to demolish the assumption that drinking and partying are what make up a college lifestyle I made a mistake, I drank too much, and my decisions hurt someone. But I never ever meant to intentionally hurt [redacted].
My poor decision making and excessive drinking hurt someone that night and I wish I could just take it all back. If I were to be placed on probation, I can positively say, without a single shred of doubt in my mind, that I would never have any problem with law enforcement. Before this happened, I never had any trouble with law enforcement and I plan on maintaining that. I’ve been shattered by the party culture and risk taking behavior that I briefly experienced in my four months at school. I’ve lost my chance to swim in the Olympics. I’ve lost my ability to obtain a Stanford degree. I’ve lost employment opportunity, my reputation and most of all, my life. These things force me to never want to put myself in a position where I have to sacrifice everything. 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. I will never put myself through an event where it will give someone the ability to question whether I really can be a betterment to society. I want no one, male or female, to have to experience the destructive consequences of making decisions while under the influence of alcohol. I want to be a voice of reason in a time where people’s attitudes and preconceived notions about partying and drinking have already been established. I want to let young people now, as I did not, that things can go from fun to ruined in just one night.
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