What Brock Turner’s Release Means to Parents

Brock Turner gets released from jail Friday, September 2, 2016, after serving three months in Santa Clara County jail.

For those of you not familiar, Mr. Turner, a scholar athlete and Olympic swimming hopeful, was convicted in March of three felony counts: assault with the intent to commit rape of an unconscious person, sexual penetration of an unconscious person and sexual penetration of an intoxicated person. He attacked a woman identified as drunk behind a garbage bin on the Stamford University campus in January 2015.

He completed half of the paltry six-month jail term Judge Aaron Persky imposed upon him. Prosecutors asked for six years.

Most people accused of rape are never found guilty — the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network estimates 97 out of 100 perpetrators of sexual assault avoid punishment. Turner’s crime, however, had witnesses. There was no doubt.

One summer. Three months. 2,160 hours. Not even a full swim season.

Movies released when he entered county jail — instead of the prison time he should have received — may still be playing in theaters.

Don’t get me wrong; I know Brock’s life will never be the same. He is now the poster child for what is wrong with our Justice system when it comes to rape. He is the shining example of how people in authority do not take sexual abuse seriously.  His life is forever changed.

And perhaps I could find compassion for Mr. Turner if he or his family had any empathy for his victim, instead of attributing his “mistake” to two individuals who consumed too much alcohol.

But one thing universally common to rapists is that they don’t think about what their victim goes through. To commit a crime that heinous, it often involves a tremendous amount of dehumanizing.

Victims, however, often do not have the luxury of detachment. Rape is a devastatingly intimate crime that women take with them for the rest of their lives. While some victims are severely injured, become pregnant or contract a disease, for most it is the emotional weight of the crime that breaks them.

Raped women often deal with nightmares, panic attacks, waves of self-doubt, and an overwhelming sense of distrust. They often cannot work because of the fear of another attack. The constant shame inhibits relationships.

Some victims say they are never the same again. It is a lifetime prison sentence.

Why should this matter to you? If you are the parent of girls, you should know that the chance a woman between the age of 12 to 28 getting sexually assaulted is one in three.

I have three daughters.  Those are odds I can’t live with.

We keep telling our girls that they can do anything and be anything, but the cold reality is they can’t. Women are constantly in sexual danger, and it limits our potential. Until we change the conversation from who gets raped to who commits rapes, the “Rape Culture” in our society lives on.

Michael Kimmel, a sociologist at the State University of New York who has received international recognition for his work on men and masculinity, calls it a matter of carrots and sticks. “I think the stick is we need very strong laws with uncompromising enforcement all the way through the legal system so that we make it clear as culture that we won’t stand for this. As a culture we can say the way we try to say around murder for example, or auto theft for example, ‘this is beyond the pale, you cannot do this. We will come down so hard on you, you won’t want to do this.’ O.K. that’s the stick. What’s the carrot? If we as men make it very clear to the women in our lives that we don’t support men’s violence against women, that we are actively opposed to it, that we are willing to confront other men who we see doing aggressive things, then our relationships with women will actually improve.”

All the weight does not lay with our legal system, however, or as society as a whole. There is a burden we carry as parents as well.

Before sentencing, Brock Turner’s father issued a statement detailing the impact this event has on his son, which included how he could no long enjoy a good steak nor follow his dreams to become an Olympic swimmer. He insinuated that the prosecutor’s recommendation for prison time 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.” He felt that Brock has suffered —will suffer — enough for his role in this situation. He also promised his son’s time would be better spent educating other college students on the misuse of alcohol.

His statement forgot one small detail: Brock Turner is not the victim.

Brock’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.

The fact that the most central figures in his life — his good friends, his parents, and a California Supreme Court Judge — minimized  his role in this event will cost Brock Turner something much more: any chance of learning that his actions have measured consequences.

More importantly, allowing him out of jail after only three months gives every other young man on campuses across the country an out for rape. Intoxication is a mistake and sexual assault just an ugly consequence of poor judgment.

As a parent, I can’t imagine the heartbreak for the Turners. It must be devastating to watch your golden 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 knowing he walked out of the county jail after three months — one-quarter of a year — well, that is enough to destroy a victim and their family forever.

I do not know the type of parents Brock Turner has or how they chose to raise him. I can only hope that as the California penal system releases him back out into society that his parents will begin to hold him accountable for his actions.

He made an incredible mistake and will pay for it for the rest of his life. But it is a parent’s job to help him understand what he did was wrong — not make it easier for him. He committed a violent crime and needs help. If the Turner’s do not understand this, they need help too.

To date, no one from the Turner family publicly apologized to the victim. Perhaps this is the result of legal counsel, but I can only hope Brock’s parents will help their son see his wrongdoings and give some semblance of closure to his victim. The justice system sure didn’t.

And I am scared. I am scared that one day my girls will drink too much at a party, experiment with drugs, or trust the wrong person, and the direction of their life will forever change in that one second because someone like Brock wasn’t held accountable; because another man felt raping a young woman wasn’t that big of a deal.

Brock Turner gets out of jail after serving 90 days in a county jail after being convicted on three felony accounts by a group of his peers.

His victim will pay for his actions for the rest of her life.

We all must live with that.

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.”

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.”

Too Sexy, Too Young

I despise the fact that I sometimes have to tell my daughters to go change because her shorts are too short or her leggings too tight or her shirt rides up too high. I do not for a single moment want to be the source for why she is uncomfortable in her body. But I also need her to be aware that — whether I like it or not — what she wears matters.

So despite all the other noise from social media and video games and friends, I will make sure she knows she is enough, exactly as she is. And then I’ll ask her to put on a new pair of pants…

I am now a regular contributor to a lovely parenting site named Her View from Home. I’m up today discussing the wardrobe war, which is killing me, battle by battle.

Too Sexy, Too Young

I watch my daughter walk into the room with her long, straight chestnut hair swaying side to side. I love watching her enter our kitchen each morning.

At ten, her sense of self is strong. She knows how to put together an outfit and creates just the right hairstyle to go with it. I am always impressed with her ability to match her older sister’s fur vest with a pair of leopard leggings or a jean jacket with a plaid skirt meant for the holidays. She does not get this trait from her style-challenged mother, who has worn her hair the same way for nearly two decades.

Her greatest accessory, however, is the confidence that exudes out of her tiny frame. She walks with her head held high as her voice booms against the walls of our home. She is a force.

I see her from behind as she bends over to pull out a waffle from the bottom of our freezer. When she stands up, I notice her shorts don’t move much. They lay perfectly still, roughly one inch under her buttocks. I think to myself that J-Lo would be envious of that perfect bum.

But then I remember that she is in fourth grade and not on a tour with backup dancers.

Click here to read more.

I Want Her to Be Better than Me

I have three daughters, and of course I love them all equally.

That being said, there is one that I butt heads with more, one that seems to cause my temper to flare faster and bigger.

She happens to be the one just like me.

I had an epiphany moment with her awhile back. I realized she became a trigger for what I didn’t like in myself, and when I am having my own moments of weakness, I was taking it out on her.

I am up on a lovely parenting website today named Her View from Home with my post about trying to get my daughter to become a better version of myself, and how in turn, I became a better version of me.

You can read the full post here.

I Want Her to Be a Better Version of Me

“Why do you not put your school things in your backpack immediately after you finish?” I snapped at my daughter after dinner one night. “You have to be more organized!”

I watched the tears well up like puddles in her dark brown eyes that were exact replicas of mine, yet my anger did not subside. It was the same argument every night.

She hurriedly stuffed a torn yellow folder with papers sticking out in every direction in her purple backpack, and then slowly turned to see if I was watching her.

“What?” I exclaimed in my most exasperated mom voice.

“Why do you not put your school things in your backpack immediately after you finish?” I snapped at my daughter after dinner one night. “You have to be more organized!”

I watched the tears well up like puddles in her dark brown eyes that were exact replicas of mine, yet my anger did not subside. It was the same argument every night.

She hurriedly stuffed a torn yellow folder with papers sticking out in every direction in her purple backpack, and then slowly turned to see if I was watching her.

“What?” I exclaimed in my most exasperated mom voice. (To continue reading click here.)

 

How to Raise “Includers”

The cars in the drop-off line moved exceedingly slow one cold morning, and I tried to keep my patience while silently chanting, “Pull forward!”

My daughters and I were almost to the exit spot when I watched two girls hop out of a minivan. In an instant, I saw a pack of Justice-clad tweens swarm one of the passengers while the other stood off to the side pulling her backpack onto tiny shoulders.

“Who are those girls?” I asked.

“They aren’t in my class, but they just really love each other, I guess. They are always hanging on to each other at recess,” one of my kids said.

“Are they nice?” I questioned, eager to hear what they thought.

“Yeah, they are really nice when you are around them. It’s just when they are in a group, they don’t pay much attention to anyone else. Pull up, Mom!” My daughter said this off-handedly, and I could tell she didn’t think much of it.

I watched the gaggle of girls walk up the sidewalk arm-in-arm while the other young student sidled slowly behind them, her head cast downwards.

I did not stop thinking about the incident for the remainder of the day. On one hand, those girls did not do anything wrong but excitedly greet a friend. On the other, they ruined another child’s morning without even trying — without even being aware.

The more I thought about it, the more upset I became.

Why is it so hard to raise nice kids? Kids who are kind, kids who are considerate, kids who include? How do we teach these impressionable minds to be aware of other people?

The answer is obvious. It comes from us. The parents.

How many times do you walk into a room, search out your friends and talk only to them?

Would you rather stick your nose in your iPhone than meet a new person?

How often do you see someone standing off to the side and do not go over and introduce yourself? Even offer a smile?

I’m guilty.

I get it. As an extrovert, I feed off the attention of others. But sometimes I am just tired, too damn tired to strike up a conversation and keep it going with someone I don’t know.

But then I think about that little girl. The one who no one was mean to, but yet was ignored. Not even a simple hello or a nod of acknowledgment. That could be your kid. It could be mine. It may be you, and I know it’s been me.

I am tired of hearing that girls are just mean.

I am exhausted from the excuses for exclusionary behavior.

I am sick of listening to parents saying their kids didn’t do anything. Because that is the problem. They didn’t do anything. We aren’t doing anything.

We are guilty, but too unaware to notice. Too busy to pick up on the signs.

It may be worse when your son or daughter is the bully and picks on other kids, but when we teach our children they can walk through life without noticing other people, without being aware of anyone else — well, we reap what we sow.

As parents, we do it all the time. We talk about avoiding the PTA because of the cliques while the members forget how to welcome new faces into the fray. We attend a moms’ group once and determine the quality of the women based on a single interaction. We take our kids to the park to encourage them to play with other children, yet we sit off by ourselves.

So, how do we make the change?

+ Teach your kids how to meet new people. Introduce yourself to strangers in front of your child. Show them how easy it is, even if it feels awkward. Practice it at home.

+ Create awareness. Point a child out to your son or daughter that is playing alone. Encourage her to ask the child to join in the activity. It’s so easy.

+Institute friend goals and share experiences. Set a family goal for each member to talk with someone they don’t know well each week. At dinner or another time you are all together, discuss what you learned about the new friend. Hold each person accountable for participating.

+ Watch for unintentional exclusionary behavior. This is the crux of the issue. As parents, we often write behavior off because we know it was not intended to be mean; but how are children supposed to learn if we don’t point it out?

I cringe when one of my children says, “I want to sit next to so-and-so” whenever we are at a gathering, as I know it makes other kids feel bad. I told my daughters that each time they create a stink about sitting next to a person, they are telling someone else that she doesn’t want to sit by them. After one particularly trying birthday party, we made a family rule that we feel grateful whenever we have a seat at the table, but during the event they may play with whomever they want (as long as they include everyone). It avoids a lot of drama caused by seat shuffling.

+ Be brave. The biggest fear most of us have for our children is that they will be ignored — on the playground, in the lunchroom, or at an event. So, we social engineer each activity to ensure they only go to places where they have a friend. But what are we really teaching them?

When we encourage our children to experience new activities by themselves, they develop compassion for others who may be in a similar situation down the road. I find the courage  comes with preparing my kids beforehand with conversation starters or a script to help them introduce themselves.

We don’t realize this as parents, but kids have an uncanny ability to make friends if we just get out of the way.

+ Model the person you want your child to become. We all know talk is cheap. If you want your child to be inclusive, be inclusive yourself. Lend a hand to someone you don’t know well. Keep your snarky comments to a minimum. Introduce yourself to the new neighbors. Talk to that mom or dad standing alone at pick up.

The worst thing that could happen is you may have to talk to a spitter for five minutes.

The best could be you made a very lonely person’s day.

It all starts with one brave parent.

Be brave today.