If you’ve been reading the news this week, you know that a “Stanford swimmer” as the media refers to him (actually named Brock Turner) was sentenced to an incredibly lenient six months in jail for raping a 23-year-old unconscious woman behind a dumpster following a party they both attended.
The woman wrote a heartbreaking and powerful letter to her accuser in which she destroys every excuse he used in his own defense. Turner’s father penned a similar letter – also heartbreaking, for an entirely different reason. That letter discussed how his son’s life has been ruined by the case, how he doesn’t even enjoy rib eye steaks anymore, and how he shouldn’t be punished for “20 minutes of action” out of his 20 years of a perfect life.
While social media is rightfully bashing the father, son, and the judge that gave Turner the six months sentence, as a father of two young boys, I thought I would help out a fellow dad and show him what he should have written.
Thank you for the opportunity to stand before you and submit my letter with regard to my son’s sentencing. I hope it’s ok but I’m going to use this opportunity to also address my son directly as this fine young woman, his victim, already has.
Before I start, let me first say to the young woman, her sister, family, boyfriend and everyone else who has been affected by my son’s actions that I’m truly sorry for what he did. We both know there aren’t any words that I can say that will make what happened go away or lessen your pain, but I need to apologize to you directly. You didn’t deserve any of this. No woman does. You did nothing wrong. You are brave and strong and I wish you nothing but the best for you in life. You do deserve that.
Like you, I never thought I would be standing here in a court of law in front of a judge trying to understand what my son did. He failed. There must be a stronger word for that but I can’t find it. I failed as a parent. When you have children, all you want is what’s best for them. You want them to do well, to succeed, to achieve their dreams. And perhaps that’s where I went wrong. I’ve spent the last year doing a lot of soul searching into what we did wrong. We put so much emphasis for Brock on “being the best”, having the fastest time in the pool, getting into the best school, what have you, that we lost sight of what truly makes someone successful — the ability to love, to respect others and to be a good person.
As a parent, you have so much anxiety about what your children will do when they grow up, and the one thing you never want them to do is something that they cannot take back. If Brock was capable of doing what he did to you, somewhere along the way I fucked up. I didn’t give him the tools he needed to understand the world, to understand that life is this amazing journey, and the point of it all is for people around you to be better off for having known you and not the other way around.
To you son, we’ve obviously talked about this a lot, but I’ll share some of what we’ve discussed with the court today. Disappointed would be an understatement. You can’t un-ring this bell. It wasn’t the alcohol, it wasn’t an accident, it wasn’t her fault, she didn’t consent, it was you, just you. You decided that she had something you wanted. You decided it was your right to take it. You took her independence, her pride, her innocence, and much more — she didn’t deserve that. No one does. You need to understand that. Truly in your heart understand what you did. Then, and only then, will you be able to figure out a way to get your life back on track. I know you, I’ve been with you since the moment you were born, so I have utmost faith that you can make that happen. I know this past year has been really hard for you. It has been far worse for her, she’s the only victim — everything you feel, every pain you have is because of what you did. It is going to be a really long and trying road. You haven’t even begun that journey yet. But, I’m your dad, and I will do everything I can to help you.
I’m asking the court for leniency today because you are my son. I don’t believe that a long prison sentence will help you specifically understand what you did and I don’t want to see you in jail. No parent wants to see their child incarcerated. That doesn’t mean you don’t deserve punishment and I will have to live with whatever the court decides. You will be registered as a sex offender for your entire life. Every time you go for a job or meet someone new, they will Google your name and your sexual assault of this woman will be the first thing they see. You will have to figure out a way to show them and everyone else that you’re not the person that committed this awful crime. In 20 minutes, you’ve managed to erase all of the advantages and privileges your mom and I have given you.
The young woman spoke about how she drew a picture on her bedroom ceiling of two bikes representing the two Swedes who saw you assaulting her, chased you down and saved her. She said she did that to remind herself that there are heroes in this story and that we are looking out for one another. I always thought you would be the Swede, not the other way around.
I will always love you. I’m your dad. I’ll be here for you every day, every time you need me. But that doesn’t mean you have my respect.
You’re young — I fully expect the judge to punish you, but wish for a shorter sentence because I believe there is so much you can still do with your life. And my respect, you can win that back too.
But you have to start right now.
Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikele/