In a letter to the judge, the Stanford University swimmer who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman in 2015, blames college partying for his actions.
Turner, then-19, sexually assaulted a woman after a party on campus on Jan. 17, 2015. Two PhD students who were riding their bikes found Turner assaulting the woman and intervened. They called the authorities and Turner was arrested that night.
Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky, following the recommendation of the county’s probation department, sentenced Turner to six months in jail and three years probation on June 2. Persky cited Turner’s clean criminal record and the impact the conviction will have on his life for the decision on his sentence. The former swimmer must register for life as a sex offender after being convicted of three felony counts of assault and attempted rape. The initial rape charges were dropped in October 2015.
Turner is now appealing his conviction.
Turner sent the letter to the judge prior to the sentencing and it was subsequently obtained by The Guardian.
In the letter, Turner blames the assault on college “party culture”
“The night of January 17th changed my life and the lives of everyone involved forever. I can never go back to being the person I was before that day. I am no longer a swimmer, a student, a resident of California, or the product of the work that I put in to accomplish the goals that I set out in the first nineteen years of my life,” started the letter.
Turner wrote that he was the “sole proprietor” of what happened that night and that he would give anything to change it.
He then went on to address the culture of college partying.
“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,” he said.
“I’ve been shattered by the party culture and risk taking behavior that I briefly experienced in my four months at school,” he wrote.
“I’ve lost my chance to swim in the Olympics. I’ve lost my ability to obtain a Stanford degree. I’ve lost employment opportunity, my reputation and most of all, my life,” wrote Turner.
The former student repeatedly said that if he was put on probation he would “make it his life’s mission” to be a positive influence and contribute to society, going forward.
“I want no one, male or female, to have to experience the destructive consequences of making decisions while under the influence of alcohol,” Turner said.
“I want to be a voice of reason in a time where people’s attitudes and preconceived notions about partying and drinking have already been established. I want to let young people now, as I did not, that things can go from fun to ruined in just one night,” he added.
Victim Responds to Turner’s Letter
The woman who was sexually assaulted by Turner says his letter is harmful.
“People need to know that this way of thinking is dangerous. It’s threatening. More than my emotions, it’s my safety, everyone else’s safety. It’s not just me feeling sad and defeated. It’s honest fear,” she told The Guardian.
“The anger everyone is expressing has so many levels of being hurt and feeling that fear. Anger is how a lot of us are expressing it, but it comes from a place of pain. It’s unacceptable. There’s no way you can wiggle out of this,” she added.
The Victim’s Powerful Letter
Meanwhile, the gut-wrenching letter from the victim went viral over the weekend.
In her statement she described how the incident left her emotionally battered.
“My independence, natural joy, gentleness, and steady lifestyle I had been enjoying became distorted beyond recognition. I became closed off, angry, self-deprecating, tired, irritable, empty,” she said.
The victim, who is not a Stanford student, but a resident of nearby Palo Alto, was so intoxicated that she did not wake up until hours after the attack.
“The next thing I remember I was in a gurney in a hallway. I had dried blood and bandages on the backs of my hands and elbow,” said the victim.
She also said that if she wouldn’t have been the victim, Turner would have assaulted somebody else.
“I was the wounded antelope of the herd, completely alone and vulnerable, physically unable to fend for myself, and he chose me,” she wrote.
“Sometimes I think, if I hadn’t gone, then this never would’ve happened. But then I realized, it would have happened, just to somebody else,” said the victim.
The judge of the case has been criticized that the 6-month-sentence is too lenient. A petition has been launched for Persky’s removal from the bench and has garnered more than 400,000 signatures up to June 8.