Anyone can share or write articles on Underground Network in the "User Posts" category, and as a result, the views and opinions expressed in these posts belong to the author only and not Underground Network. Heck, they may even contradict other authors on the site as well! That's democracy in action!

It’s been roughly a month since the final verdict for Brock Turner was issued, sentencing him to 6 months in the Santa Clara county jail with a three year probation. One might say this is an arguably lenient sentence despite his three convictions for the penetration of an intoxicated person, penetration of an unconscious person, and the intent to commit rape of an intoxicated/unconscious person. Turner was found by two Swedish graduate students behind a dumpster, on top of a woman’s unconscious body, and upon realizing that he had been caught, he ran and was later apprehended by the two graduate students.

This case gathered national attention for a variety of reasons and became a hotbed of discussion concerning rape and rape culture. After the 6 month sentencing was issued, there was a massive public outcry that deemed it unjust to let Turner have such a short punishment considering his convictions. This isn’t the first time that someone has been given a lenient sentence, never mind those individuals who have gotten away with rape or sexual assault altogether. Since the final verdict, the prosecutor in the Stanford case has begun to attempt to change the laws concerning sexual assault and rape, noting that it was because of the loopholes currently in place that Turner was able to walk away with a 6 month jail term. If this is occurring in California, what then have other states done to make changes or revisions to their legislature? Surely California hasn’t been the only state that has received national attention over a rape or sexual abuse case.

Brock Turner’s mugshot- credit NBC News
Brock Turner’s mugshot- credit NBC News

According to a crime report issued by the FBI, the rates for rape are the highest in Alaska, South Dakota, Michigan, New Mexico, and Arkansas. Alaska has the highest rate of rape at 79.7 per 100,000 people, with South Dakota coming in 70.2, Michigan with 46.4, New Mexico with 45.9, and Arkansas with 42.3. Alaska and South Dakota are outliers, their numbers being greatly larger than the rest of the 50 states, including The District of Columbia. California has a rate of 20.6 per 100,000 people. However, it’s important to recognize that these are the reported rates of rape, and thus does not include those victims that have remained silent.

For Alaska, there is legislation directed towards sexual assault, but not rape, specifically. South Dakota has three laws pertaining to rape, but when compared to the events that lead to the Stanford case, none of their qualifications for rape would apply. Instead, there are laws pertaining to “sexual contact”, which at their closest, still leaves a lot of room for cases in which the victim is unconscious due to alcohol or other factors. Michigan is perhaps the only state out of the top five chosen that has a law sharing any resemblance to the Stanford case. Criminal Sexual Conduct in the Second Degree in Michigan .  New Mexico, like Alaska, has no laws explicitly mentioning rape, but only Criminal Sexual Contact, Aggravated Criminal Sexual Penetration, and Criminal Sexual Penetration. At best, their law for Criminal Sexual Penetration in the First Degree gives a broad definition of sexual abuse and rape and perhaps could be the only one used in the courts if the Stanford case had occurred in New Mexico. Arkansas remains the only state out of the five that has a law explicitly referring to rape.

Protestors and activists with signs that read “#20Minutes”, referring to the letter released by Brock Turner’s father that referred to his son’s sexual assault. Many felt that Judge Persky should have been recalled based on his decision for the verdict. (Credit: Reuters/Stephen Lam)
Protesters and activists with signs that read “#20Minutes”, referring to the letter released by Brock Turner’s father that referred to his son’s sexual assault. Many felt that Judge Persky should have been recalled based on his decision for the verdict. (Credit: Reuters/Stephen Lam)

The FBI gives the definition of rape as such: “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part of object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent or the victim. Attempts or assaults to commit rape are also included; however, statutory rape and incest are excluded.” So why isn’t the definition given by the FBI concerning rape and sexual assault the same definition that states use when making their laws? Brock Turner was at first charged with rape, but because the definition of rape in California only pertains to acts of sexual intercourse, Turner was technically not a rapist, since he never penetrated the victim with his penis. Therefore, under California law, he could only be charged with sexual assault. If you put his actions under the definition given by the FBI however, Turner would garner himself with the label of a rapist.

Brock Turner doesn’t make headlines anymore. This doesn’t mean that we should just forget and move on until the next victim comes around. The media played a huge part in sharing information about this case and created discussions about rape and sexual abuse. However, once the verdict was issued, the media no longer demonstrated any effort to stay up to date on the events occurring for the new legislation that was being created. If the story was so important to report while it was occurring, wouldn’t it still be important when there is legislation being passed about it? The media must also remember that just because a story has diminished in ratings doesn’t mean that the story doesn’t matter anymore.

States should look at this example of an individual given a lenient sentence and take from it that the system needs fixing. Even when there is legislation changed, it is often directed at just one kind of crime or incident, and therefore excludes different types of the same crime. Audrie’s Law, a law passed in California after the rape of Audrie Pott, specifically focused on raising the penalties for juveniles that sexually assault people who are unconscious. If this law would have been broader and included not just juveniles, Brock Turner could have potentially been dealing with a completely different kind of case. The prosecutor for the Stanford case is attempting to close the loophole that allowed Brock Turner his short sentence. However, it’s important to keep in mind that these changes need to be broad and not just focused on one incident.

-Talia Chavez

 

Sources:

Associated Press: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_XGR_RAPE_LAW_STANFORD_CASE?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/06/us/sexual-assault-brock-turner-stanford/

FBI: https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/violent-crime/rape

Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-rape-sentence-bill-20160630-snap-story.html

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/09/us/brock-turner-blamed-drinking-and-promiscuity-in-sexual-assault-at-stanford.html?action=click&contentCollection=U.S.&module=RelatedCoverage&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/09/magazine/why-the-stanford-rape-conviction-

actually-represents-progress.html

RAINN: https://apps.rainn.org/policy/compare/crimes.cfm

Think Progress: http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2016/06/05/3784913/stanford-sexual-assault-dad-letter/

Time: http://time.com/4369095/californias-definition-of-rape/

Time: http://time.com/4362949/stanford-sexual-assault-not-rape/

Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2016/06/04/you-took-away-my-worth-a-rape-victim-delivers-powerful-message-to-a-former-stanford-swimmer/

 

 

 

No ratings yet.

One thought on “Rape and Sexual Abuse Laws are Tricky (And That Needs to Change)

Leave a Reply