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Outcry over lenient sentence for US student who raped an unconscious woman

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A 20-year-old student from US-based Stanford University has been given a prison sentence of just six months with probation after sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster on campus.

Brock Allen Turner, an athlete who aspired to swim in the Olympics, was caught on top of the half-naked woman by two fellow students in January last year.

He was convicted last Friday with three felonies relating to the attack, including assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated or unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person and penetration of an unconscious person.

However, despite facing a maximum prison sentence of 14 years in state prison for the crimes, he was given just six months in a county prison.

Judge Aaron Persky, who presided over the case in court in Santa Clara, pointed towards his young age and lack of previous criminal actions as reasons for the reduced sentence and stated that prison would "have a severe impact on him". He added that he believed Turner would not be "a risk to others".

Brock Allen Turner has been given six months in prison

Brock Allen Turner has been given six months in prison

The decision to grant Turner such a lenient sentence has ignited fury on social media, with people taking to Twitter to express their anger at the ruling.

A petition to "recall" Judge Persky from his judicial position has also gone viral, amassing 29,073 supporters (at the time of writing) in just two days.

Outrage over the ruling was further increased when a court statement written by the unnamed 23-year-old victim was published on BuzzFeed, raising questions over a potential epidemic of violence against women on campuses.

The 7,000 word account goes into brutal detail of not just the assault, but also the intimate hospital examinations that followed and the stress of enduring the trial, during which Turner's defence team argued she had "eagerly consented" to the alleged rape.

The victim addressed Turner directly in court to read him the statement, which begins with the line, "you don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today."

The statement, which has so far been shared over 4.5 million times across social media, details the victim's initial shock at waking up in hospital and being told that she was sexually assaulted. 

"On that morning, all that I was told was that I had been found behind a dumpster, potentially penetrated by a stranger, and that I should get retested for HIV because results don’t always show up immediately.

"I had scratches and bandages on my skin, my vagina was sore and had become a strange, dark color from all the prodding, my underwear was missing, and I felt too empty to continue to speak."

You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today.

And it wasn't until she found a newspaper article detailing the assault that she realised what had truly happened to her.

"I read and learned for the first time about how I was found unconscious, with my hair disheveled, long necklace wrapped around my neck, bra pulled out of my dress... that I was butt naked all the way down to my boots, legs spread apart, and had been penetrated by a foreign object by someone I did not recognize."

She also describes her shock at finding the article ended with praise for Turner's impressive swimming records, details of which were repeatedly mentioned in court.

"And then, at the bottom of the article, after I learned about the graphic details of my own sexual assault, the article listed his swimming times. She was found breathing, unresponsive with her underwear six inches away from her bare stomach curled in fetal position. By the way, he’s really good at swimming."

"Throw in my mile time if that’s what we’re doing," she wrote. "I’m good at cooking, put that in there."

And then, at the bottom of the article, after I learned about the graphic details of my own sexual assault, the article listed his swimming times. 

Adding further fury to the ruling is a pre-sentencing report written by Turner's father, Dan Turner, in which he says his son should not have to face a prison sentence for "20 minutes of action".

The report, an extract of which was tweeted by a law professor from Stanford, says, "He will never be his happy go lucky self with that easy going personality and welcoming smile... His every waking minute is consumed with worry, anxiety, fear, and depression."

Speaking to BuzzFeed, the victim said she was still angry at Turner for refusing to admit to raping her, while adding that she was disappointed with his "gentle" sentence.

“Even if the sentence is light, hopefully this will wake people up,” she said.

“I want the judge to know that he ignited a tiny fire. If anything, this is a reason for all of us to speak even louder.”

If you or someone you know needs support relating to sexual assault or rape, you can visit Rape Crisis here or Victim Support here

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