Dan Turner: You Are the Problem

Dear Mr. Turner,

I bet if you and I broke bread and shared a bottle of wine, we’d have a lot in common.

I’m a parent too, and I would love to hear how you raised such a gifted, smart athlete.

I would guess you spent countless hours driving your son back and forth to early morning swim practices, rising before five a.m. several times a week. I am sure you gave up entire weekends to watch him swim at competitive meets and spent thousands of dollars on coaches, gear and training. I imagine your family sacrificed quite a bit to chase Brock’s dream, what became your dream, of scholarships and possibly even the Olympics.

I can’t fathom the joy you felt the day he signed his letter to attend Stanford University, one of the most prestigious schools in the country. Your heart must have burst with pride at what your son achieved.

I bet you could tell me stories about the time he shaved seven seconds off an event at a State championship or when he spent an extra hour in the pool to get his turn perfected so he could beat a record time.

I get it. Winning in the pool often comes down to milliseconds, and momentary mistakes have consequences.

You seem to forget this small fact.

And that’s why you are the problem, Mr. Turner. Your statement detailing the impact this event had on your son omitted one small detail: his victim. The lack of acknowledgment and empathy you offer the woman he assaulted behind a dumpster demonstrates that you believe your son is above reproach. The insinuation that Brock’s sentencing was unfair, suggesting that county jail with probation (instead of the usual mandatory sentencing of several years in lock-up) is a “steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action,” shows you believe Brock has suffered enough for his role in this situation.  You imply that your son’s feelings of despair and anxiety for the loss of his future trumps the irreparable harm and lasting damage he caused the young woman, her family and her boyfriend.

Your son’s life changed the moment he decided to pursue a woman so intoxicated she could not speak or even stand on her own. That mistake — that crime — cost him his Olympic hopes.

Your discounting his role in this event will cost him something much more: any chance of learning that his actions have measured consequences. You gave your son — and every other young man on campuses across the country, an out for rape.

It must be heart breaking to watch your child’s life destroyed because of what may have been his first drunken binge at a frat party. This pales in comparison, however, to finding out your daughter was violated in rubbish by a young man that didn’t even know her name. Living with the fact that the convicted perpetrator has no remorse about the crime, and in fact, won’t even admit to it, must be unbearable.

But life is made in moments, Mr. Turner, and drinking wasn’t your son’s only bad decision that night.

As the victim so eloquently stated in her letter to your son: 

“You said, Being drunk I just couldn’t make the best decisions and neither could she.

Alcohol is not an excuse. Is it a factor? Yes. But alcohol was not the one who stripped me, fingered me, had my head dragging against the ground, with me almost fully naked. Having too much to drink was an amateur mistake that I admit to, but it is not criminal. Everyone in this room has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much, or knows someone close to them who has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much. Regretting drinking is not the same as regretting sexual assault. We were both drunk, the difference is I did not take off your pants and underwear, touch you inappropriately, and run away. That’s the difference.”

I do not know how you chose to raise your son, Mr. Turner, nor can I judge. I am sure you are doing what you feel is in the best interest for him.

But I beg of you,  decide at this moment, this very second, to hold your son accountable for his actions. He made an incredible mistake and will pay for it for the rest of his life. It’s your job to help him understand what he did was wrong — not make it easier for him.

His victim was not sexually promiscuous. He did not have consensual sex. It was not a run-of-the-mill college encounter. Drinking is not an excuse.

He committed a violent crime and needs help. If you don’t understand this, you need help.

The moral lines remain blurry in today’s world, particularly for those gifted with athleticism, intelligence or wealth. No longer can we blame our kids’ poor decisions on violent video games, rap music or films that glorify criminal behavior. It comes down to us, the parents, Mr. Turner. It’s up to you to help your son see his wrongdoings, and give some semblance of closure to his victim.

You can have unconditional love for your child and hold him accountable — at any age and under all circumstances. You can be loyal to your family and responsible to the outside world. You can still hold your six foot two inch son tight and teach him to own up to his actions, even if that means losing his — and your — dreams.

Brock cannot “educate” others until he first understands his own crime, and make no mistake about it, this was a sexual assault, not a drunk night gone awry. Unfortunately, because you do not hold your son accountable for the rape, and Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sentenced him only to six months in county jail and three years’ probation, the message is loud and clear to other potential offenders: you are not responsible for your behavior if you get drunk, especially if you are a world-class athlete.

You are part of the rape culture, Mr. Turner. You are the problem.

You may be interested to know I’m raising athletes too. My three girls follow their sports with passion and vigor. We spend our weekends trekking all over the Midwest, cheering loudly for every achievement and encouraging them to work hard and play harder.

I don’t see scholarships to elite colleges in our future though, and certainly not the Olympics. Their father and I have more modest dreams: we hope they graduate high school and college, and then move on to live happy, fulfilling lives.

And we pray they won’t get raped.

Because we are scared, Mr. Turner. We are scared that one day our girls will drink too much at a party, experiment with drugs, or trust the wrong person, and the direction of their life will change in that one second because someone like your son Brock wasn’t held accountable; because you made his Olympic dreams more important than his victim’s ability to sleep at night.

So, Mr. Turner, please don’t talk to us about your son’s lack of appetite. Please don’t talk to us about the lack of bounce in his step or his anxiety about going to prison for a crime he — wait for it — committed and was convicted for by a jury of his peers. Don’t discuss his depression, which appears to be more about getting caught than guilt for what he did. And please, please don’t talk to us about the price he is paying for the twenty minutes he physically assaulted a young girl behind a dumpster, and then abandoned in the dirt when confronted by good samaritans.

He is not the victim, and the sooner you stop treating him as such, the sooner he may realize the impact he had on an innocent young woman’s life. Your attempt at marginalizing your son’s assault only ensures another young man will do the same.

The devil did not make him do it. The alcohol, while having an impact, did not make him do it. And I hope for your sake that Brock does not come out one day and point his finger at you, Mr. Turner, stating that it was in fact his parents coddling that made him believe he could get away with anything and everything, including sexual assault. The “affluenza” defense is very real in America.

There are no amount of anti-drinking ads or lectures your son can give that could make this a net-positive for the victim. She will pay for his decision for the rest of his life. And because you and your son are not acknowledging his actions, the culture of rape at our colleges, particularly among elite athletes, continues to grow.

You are part of the problem, Mr. Turner. Take twenty minutes — and the rest of your life — to think about that.

I am sure your son’s victim will.

From the victim’s letter to her assailant at sentencing:

“As a society, we cannot forgive everyone’s first sexual assault or digital rape. It doesn’t make sense. The seriousness of rape has to be communicated clearly, we should not create a culture that suggests we learn that rape is wrong through trial and error. The consequences of sexual assault needs to be severe enough that people feel enough fear to exercise good judgment even if they are drunk, severe enough to be preventative.”

  1. This was a horrible crime, with the rapist literally caught in the act, and a horrible sentence, delivered by a judge who should be removed/recalled/voted out at the next opportunity. In his sentencing, the judge cared more about the impact of prison on the criminal vs. justice for the victim. As others have said, if the rapist’s skin color was different, and if he wasn’t a Stanford athlete, would the sentence have been as lenient? The answer is no (and I’m white, btw).

    I hope that the victim’s letter becomes required reading for ALL college freshmen, not to warn about the dangers of alcohol, of which there are many, but the dangers of losing your humanity, that others exist for your taking.

  2. As the parent of a tween boy, Mr. Turner’s attitude makes me mad. When my son does something wrong, I hold him accountable. Period. Quoting not my parents “it hurts me more than you” is true. My son is 11. He is old enough to be held accountable for his decisions. I have taught him right from wrong, choices or not choosing has consequences, life is not fair, and lots of other things. Yes it would devastate me if me made such a horrible decision but it is his decision to make and to suffer the penalty for it.

    • I honestly do feel for the Turner’s, but I just can’t fathom why they just won’t say he made a mistake assaulting that young girl. Acknowledgment is so important. Thanks so much for commenting.

  3. You’re actually very generous towards this father to feed his (extremely false and misguided) sense of pride – I’d like to tell him that he should be ashamed of the sociopath he raised because this kid sound like he’s a flawed character beyond salvageability. The ability to do something like this to someone translates into a lack of conscience makes them a danger to society no matter where they get their degree from or how well they perform as an athlete, and the blindness this father has towards his son’s deeply flawed, damaged character now has a victim count!

    • You know, if the kid showed any remorse for his actions or empathy for his victim, I would maybe say this could have been an isolated event. The mere fact they don’t even acknowledge the victim or his actions is just appalling. We have to do better.

  4. Thank you for saying everything I was thinking. My son will be taught that only a “sober yes” means yes. Unfortunately, girls have to be taught that when you drink anything you have said and done can and will be used against you in a court of law.

    It was true 30 years ago when I was in college and thanks to Judge Persky it is still true today.

  5. I wish I could get every single person that I know to read this letter. And I hope the judge and this father and his rapist son read it. Very well written and poignant, just like the victim’s statement.

    • Thanks for the kind words. I doubt the Turner’s will ever read this or anything else, or they will find an excuse not to acknowledge it. Such a shame.

  6. Brilliant. So so LOVE your words. It’s disgusting what’s happening in this country, thank you for saying what we are all thinking so elequently.

  7. I only hope & pray that this never happens to the judges daughter, granddaughter, niece, or his wife. He will only them realize what happened to this poor young lady. God be with her always.

    • No one deserves it, and it shouldn’t be that difficult to have empathy for it. Such a shame. Thanks so much for reading.

  8. Very well written, Whitney. I only wish more people could see it. I’m sure the father now sees himself as a victim with so much criticism being aimed at him, but you are correct, he is the problem. As is the Affluenza epidemic and the parents who are incapable of holding their children accountable for their actions. It is a sad state of humanity. I pray one day they will see the error in their ways and make amends in a positive way to society, if not at least the victim. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I agree whole heartedly. It is a real problem right now, and I’m not sure if there will be a change in the future. Scary times indeed.

  9. Very well written . I live very close to Oakwood and daddy has $$. And I understand his mindset. I hope they plaster Brock’s name all over the place. Has he been suspended from team or school?

    • He was immediately suspended from school, and with a felony conviction I do not believe he can compete for his country any more. His life has been ruined, but he still needs ownership of his mistakes.

  10. Great letter and impactful. I agree completely. It’s sad that we have double standards. Why are we not teaching our boys to treat girls and soon to be women with respect. Why is it that we have to tell our girls not to wear “provocative” outfits and that somehow showing a shoulder is the cause? We do make mistakes and that is life but take responsibility for your actions and accept the consequences, whatever that may be…..

  11. Lovely writing. We all want our kids to be happy, but above all to be compassionate, have a conscience and realise actions have consequences.
    This indulgent father has raised something far less than a well rounded human being from the evidence I’ve seen. He’s raised a child without compassion. A child with a feeling of entitlement, and a child who has no thought or consciousness of the wrongness of his actions or the damage they have caused – only a hiccup in his appetite caused by the inconvenience of imposed consequences.
    It’s a very sad, messed up world sometimes.

  12. My two cents: To many parents over identify with their kids activities and see their success and failures as their own. Which is why so many rush to rationalize, justify, coverup their student athletes misbehavior instead of hold them accountable and teach them greater moral life lessons. It seems the father is most distraught over what his sons act is costing him as his parent, and all that he and and his family have invested in their child’s athletic ambitions over the years. Integrity is doing what’s right when no ones looking. (Or in this case when intoxicated. )

  13. Thank you so much for sharing, I hope Mr Turner reads it, his neighbors prints it and plaster it all over his house!

  14. Thank you for this. It will go in one ear and out the other for the Turners. From day one, they can’t see that they are the problem. They victimize themselves, and instead of thanking their lucky stars for that light sentence, they continue to fight for twisted justice for Brock. Brock is not the victim here. We need to erase the “Boys will be boys” mentality. #BoysWillBeAccountable

    I hope your open letter goes viral like John’s! But in our patriarchal society, it probably won’t!

    • Thanks so much for the nice words, and yes, I agree with you that the Turners will never see this, and even if they did, wouldn’t get it. It is a very scary world right now!

  15. Thank you for taking the time and caring enough to share your heart in penning this most eloquent letter. The world needs to hear every honest voice who will call this horrid act what it is: a heinous crime committed by a young man who has been taught that the world and everything in it belongs to him, and that he is absolutely above reproach. As a mother of two fine grown sons, I cannot imagine receiving the news that either of them has committed such a crime under any circumstances. Further, I cannot imagine my husband or myself reacting to a criminal act such as this in the way Mr. Turner has. In closing, the one question that continues to weigh on my mind is this: How would Mr. Turner have reacted if his son’s heinous act had taken only a split second instead of twenty minutes, and his son’s victim was no longer alive as a direct result? What would he say then?

    • Thanks for those kind words. I agree. If he had driven drunk and killed someone, what would he say? Accidentally fired a handgun? So many comparisons. This story haunts me and will change the way I raise my girls.

      • Curious to know how it will “change the way (you) raise (your) girls?”

        No doubt there’s at least one if not several follow up posts in the answer to that question. #justsaying

  16. A very eloquent expression of what many parents are feeling. I have a 14 yo son and his father and I have worked very hard to communicate that he responsible for his actions. He has ADHD and was often aggressive when he was younger – we understood that his ADHD often made it harder for him to make good decisions, but he still had to own his decisions. We’ve also worked hard to demonstrate respectful attitudes toward girls and women and talk about what’s appropriate behaviour. I agree that white male privilege is definitely at the root of Mr. Turner’s attitude, but he doesn’t seem to think very highly of women either. I feel very sorry for the Turner family.

  17. Thank you. As a young woman getting ready to go off to college, I have to say that despite the disgusting circumstances surrounding this case, your letter made me feel a bit better. All parents need to have your attitude, and if I ever have kids, I will instill in them the importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions.

  18. Beautifully put. Thank you so much for writing this and expressing exactly what many parents of daughters are feeling now.

  19. I admire your patience in entertaining the fact of breaking bread. I’m sorry for being harsh but after his 20 minute comment. I want to break his fucking face. Everything about this dispicable event and the family and justice system is so twisted. Now, I guess I should contribute to the discussion. I’ve been looking into this event “I don’t mean to seem unsympathetic to what happened to this poor women by calling the shituation an event, I really feel for her, I’m just having a hard time with the way this is playing out”
    So, here is what I have dug up.
    1) Earlier on that night Turner tried gropping her younger sister and was pushed away.
    2) Turner lied under oath about his prior drug use. Is purgury still a crime in this cUntry?
    3) The defense attorney claimed he had no prior criminal record.
    B.S. He had atleast a DUI offense in which he was only given a ticket.

    I could go on and on.