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Brock Turner banned from swimming: a timeline of the Stanford rape case

Durga M Sengupta | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST

For a case that has captured everyone's attention on social media for an entire week, the Stanford rape case continues to develop. The latest being that the accused Brock Turner is now banned by USA Swimming and made "ineligible for membership". Turner is an ex-Stanford University swimmer whose sporting talent was actually taken into account before a court handed him a six-month prison sentence.

With the light sentencing, the Stanford rape went from being 'yet another case' of campus assault to being a red alert for our times, especially after the victim's fearless letter that she read in court went viral.

Also read - Stanford sexual assault: how social media gave a voice to the victim

Here's a timeline to keep track of everything unfolding in and around the case:

The incident

The girl, a University of California graduate, attended a Stanford party with her sister on 17 January, 2015. She drank alcohol and blacked out. She was found behind a dumpster and her assaulter was caught by two witnesses on bicycles. He attempted to flee the scene but was pinned down by one of the witnesses until police arrived. The assaulter was arrested and later identified as Brock Turner.

The trial

Five months since the incident, in the first week of June 2016, the case went to trial.

Intent to commit rape. Sexual penetration with a foreign object of an intoxicated person. Sexual penetration with a foreign object of an unconscious person. These were the three charges on which Turner was found guilty.

All three amount to rape, but Brock Turner was found guilty of 'sexual assault'. Prosecutors demanded that Turner get six years in jail. Instead, he got six months.

Judge Aaron Persky, stated that a "prison sentence would have a severe impact on him" and gave him the short sentence. "I think he will not be a danger to others," he added. It should be noted here that with 'good behaviour' Turner may only need to serve half of his sentence, which further cuts it down to three months.

Also read - Drunk, unconscious, violated with oral sex: This isn't rape says Oklahoma court

The trial and the verdict, according to the victim, was added trauma.

"I was pummeled with narrowed, pointed questions that dissected my personal life, love life, past life, family life, inane questions, accumulating trivial details to try and find an excuse for this guy who had me half naked before even bothering to ask for my name. After a physical assault, I was assaulted with questions designed to attack me, to say see, her facts don't line up, she's out of her mind, she's practically an alcoholic," the victim's letter reads.

The letter that shook us all

Here's the thing about rapes and rape victims - they are hidden. We almost never get to hear their side of the story, let alone know of who they are.

The Stanford rape victim's letter, in which she describes in great detail how she felt and what the assault had done to her, was read out to Brock Turner by her in court.

When BuzzFeed shared it, we all read it, discussed it with our peers, found some of ourselves in it, and, for a change, the victim's voice could be heard the loudest.

The nameless victim gave strength to women everywhere by telling them, "I'm with you". "On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you."

The rape culture she addressed in her letter was further reinforced when Brock Turner's father wrote a letter begging for his son's freedom.

Also read - These videos are a slap in the face of Harvard's oldest 'pro-rape' men's club

Support for Turner

Dan Turner, sympathising with his son, wrote, "His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20-plus years of life."

His description of the rape as just '20 minutes of action' only enraged everyone already upset at the light sentencing.

Another father, John Pavlovitz, wrote a rebuttal on his blog that went viral. While addressing Dan Turner, Pavlovitz wrote, "The idea that your son has never violated another woman next to a dumpster before isn't a credit to his character."

"We don't get kudos for only raping one person in our lifetime. I don't believe your son is a monster but he acted like one and that needs to be accounted for. To be sure, this decision is not the sum total of Brock's life, but it is an important part of the equation and it matters deeply."

He also wrote another blog as a follow up objecting to the virality a subject like this achieves. Because the thing about being viral is that you fizzle out, and the discussion around rape shouldn't, argues Pavlovitz.

But Dan Turner hasn't been the only family member of Brock's to have showered support on him.

"Brock is a good 20 year old young man who has never been in trouble. Brock has essentially served a 14 month jail sentence while awaiting trial," his grandparents Richard and Carolyn Bradfield said.

Tommy Cope, Turner's childhood friend said, "I know that he is filled with pain. His sport, his education, his goals have already been taken from him. Please, Honorable Judge Aaron Persky, consider these things as you review Brock's case."

Turner's sister, terming the assault a "series of alcohol-fueled decisions that he made within an hour timespan" said that "the aftermath of this paradigm shift in his life has been incredibly difficult for me to observe, but Brock did the best he could to persevere through the situation."

This, of course, is the same argument Brock himself turned to. That he was the ideal son, the ideal swimmer, the ideal student, and that alcohol destroyed him.

The Guardian obtained a copy of Turner's full statement to Judge Persky where he blamed Stanford's "party culture" for the assault.

"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", reads an extract from Brock Turner's statement.

Brock Turner's mother is the latest offender in this list.

In a letter of hers that was published in the media on Saturday, she begs for him to be not sent to prison.

Carleen Turner, not once mentioning that her son raped a woman, writes, "Look at him. He won't survive it. He will be damaged forever and I fear he would be a major target. Stanford boy, college kid, college athlete -- all the publicity... This would be a death sentence for him."

Support for the victim

US Vice President Joe Biden, moved by the victim's letter, wrote back to show his support for her.

"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," he writes in the letter published on BuzzFeed.

"You are a warrior - with a solid steel spine," Biden writes in his moving letter, highlighting the various people and support systems that failed her, especially that of rape culture.

He then thanks the two men on bicycles who saved her. "I do not know your name - but thanks to you, I know that heroes ride bicycles."

The two heroes in this story, Carl-Fredrik Arndt and Peter Jonsson, are Swedish PhD students. The victim mentions having a drawing of two bicycles pinned above her bed just so that she can sleep knowing that there are good people in this world.

Jonsson posted the victim's letter on his Facebook with the message, "To me it is unique in its form and comes as close as you can possibly get to putting words on an experience that words cannot describe."

Also read - What India desperately needs to learn from this porn website

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has also spoken out in the victim's favour. She said that she is "very concerned" that the victim "was not respected" during the legal process.

"The concern that I have in this case is that the victim's voice was not heard, it was not respected, and she was not given dignity in the process," Harris said.

Questioning the jail time, she added, "When someone is facing a 14-year (sentence), which I believe was the exposure in this case, there's got to be extraordinary mitigating facts to reduce it down to what I believe ended up being six months."

Some other unusual avenues from where support poured in include porn site xHamster and even a community of 'witches' from around the world who attempted to hex the Turners.

According to this Dazed article, a group of witches hexed Turner, wishing impotency and pain upon him, as a gesture of support to rape survivors and against rapists.

Apparently all that needs to be done to hex Turner is hold up a black candle and say, "Brock Allen Turner we hex you."

"You will be impotent. You will know constant pain of pine needles in your guts. Food will bring you no sustenance. In water, your lungs will fail you. Sleep will only bring nightmares. Shame will be your mantle. You will meet justice."

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Porn website xHamster, which does not tolerate violent or rape porn, announced a "Brock Turner Rule" which blocks any content that appears to be non-consensual.

Additionally, if one were to search for 'rape' porn on the website, they are shown this message: "If you are searching for this category, it's probably time you consulted with a professional." After which, they are redirected to another website called 7cups.com - for online counseling.

There has also been massive online support from forums like Change.org for Judge Persky's removal from the panel. It must also be noted that Persky is a Stanford graduate himself and once coached the men's lacrosse team.

The Change.org petition alone has received over 1.1 million signatures so far.

"Judge Persky failed to see that the fact that Brock Turner is a white male star athlete at a prestigious university does not entitle him to leniency. He also failed to send the message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class, race, gender or other factors. Please help rectify this travesty to justice," the petition reads. It's hard to argue with that.

First published: 12 June 2016, 4:53 IST
Durga M Sengupta @the_bongrel

Feminist and culturally displaced, Durga tries her best to live up to her overpowering name. She speaks four languages, by default, and has an unhealthy love for cheesy foods. Assistant Editor at Catch, Durga hopes to bring in a focus on gender politics and the role in plays in all our interactions.