By: Casey Gwinn, Esq.
There are crimes of commission (doing something) and there are crimes of omission (not doing something). Very often, crimes of omission lead to crimes of commission. A father and son story in the news this past week provides a perfect example in the context of sexual assault.
Dan Turner’s son, Brock Turner, raped an unconscious woman on the campus of Stanford University in January 2015. After he raped her behind a dumpster and left her naked on the ground, he tried to run away and was tackled and caught by witnesses. Brock Turner was convicted by a jury and last week received only six months in jail for sexual assault. A recall campaign has begun against the judge for letting a convicted rapist off so lightly. But Dan Turner has a different take.
Dan Turner says his son paid a “steep price” for “20 minutes of action.” He lost his chance to attend Stanford or swim in the Olympics. Dan Turner did not express his deep regret for the life changing violation of the victim by his son. In fact, he totally ignored the impact on the 23 year-old victim. Her victim impact statement is stunning in its eloquence including these words directed at Brock Turner: “Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.”
But Dan Turner only mourned the way his son’s life would be “deeply altered forever.” He mourned for his son’s loss of his “happy, go lucky self”, his “easy going personality”, and his “welcoming smile.” He lamented his son’s “loss of appetite, anxiety, fear, and depression.” He noted how proficient his son was at cooking a good rib eye steak before his prosecution for rape.
Turner denied his son’s “violence” in the assault, denied it even was an assault, and instead characterized the forcible rape as “20 minutes of action.” He even went so far as to say that sexual assault should not have produced any jail time for his son.
In Dan Turner’s own presentation to the judge, is the clear genesis of Brock Turner’s new title: Convicted Rapist. Dan Turner thinks his son got some “action.” He thinks 20 minutes of violence and abuse should not be consequential in his son’s life. He thinks his son deserves a pass on the profound consequences of raping a woman because? He is white? He is a college student? He has dreams and aspirations? He was a college level swim champion? Brock Turner is going to jail, albeit for too short a time, for a crime of commission. He committed a rape on an unconscious and defenseless woman. But perhaps his father should be held accountable for his crime of omission. He failed to educate his son. He never took the time to make sure that Brock knew as much about sexual assault as he did about cooking a good ribeye steak.
How could Dan Turner have changed the ending for his son in just twenty minutes? In twenty minutes, he could have Googled a website to educate his son on the prevalence and impact of rape on women and girls (https://rainn.org/statistics). He could have had him watch a video on consent to sexual intercourse before he sent him to Stanford University to “pursue his dreams.” He could have told his son that getting some “action” is not love, respect, or honor toward women and girls (www.loveisrespect.org). Perhaps when Brock Turner reports to jail for his crime of commission, we could put Dan Turner in jail as well for his crime of omission. At least for twenty minutes.
Casey Gwinn is the President of Alliance for HOPE International. He is the former elected City Attorney of San Diego. Gwinn is a graduate of Stanford University.