What I Wonder about the Stanford Rape Case

It’s hard to describe how I feel about the Stanford rape case. Enraged? Baffled? Discouraged? Afraid? Incredulous?

(Short version: A young man, Brock Turner, raped an unconscious young woman. His defense attorney, Michael Armstrong, made the usual outrageous suggestions that she had it coming. The rapist’s father, Dan Turner, begged for leniency, citing, among other things, the young man’s future as an athlete and his embarrassment regarding the situation, claiming that the actions weren’t violent, suggesting that a jail sentence was too harsh a punishment for “20 minutes of action,” and even lamenting the fact that Brock is too distraught by his conviction to enjoy steak and his favorite snacks. When Brock received only six-month sentence from judge Aaron Persky, the courageous young woman delivered a powerful response.)

This, and so many other stories like it, both told and untold, make me wonder. Although the following scenario in no way compares to the atrocity of the Stanford case, I still wonder.

What if a young man were lying unconscious on the ground after a party?

Would it be acceptable to rob him of his wallet, his phone, and his keys? And then of his car, since you have his keys?

After all, it’s not as though he—being unconscious and all—ever said, “No, please don’t steal my belongings.” And when you eased the phone out of his pocket, his hand flopped in the direction of his vehicle. Wasn’t that tantamount to offering the car to you? In any case, since he never said no when you were robbing him, he must not have objected.

Maybe his T-shirt bore the name and logo of a charitable or religious organization. This was suggestive clothing. He chose to dress in a way that reflected a generous nature; the only logical conclusion would be that he was the kind of person who would willingly give his things away. And if he’s religious, he should forgive you on the spot. Otherwise, he should never have donned that shirt and sent the wrong message. Wearing shirts like that is just asking for it, placing a large burden of temptation on others that they cannot be expected to resist.

And then there’s his history of lending his car to people. He routinely lends it to his girlfriend, as it turns out, and he’s even lent it to people he doesn’t know very well. There’s that charitable nature again! If others have used his car, you are entitled to use it as well.

Your attorney learned that in his college days, this young man was irresponsible with money and was, for a time, in deep dept. If he, back in the past, didn’t have any regard for his money, why should you have regard for his money now? He should have been more careful, back in the past.

Maybe earlier that day you saw him flaunting his high-end phone. If he didn’t want someone to take it, he should have kept it hidden. What did he expect?

Of course, all of this could have been avoided had he not unconscious. When one is unconscious, one forfeits one’s rights to wallet, phone, keys, and car.

But enough about the actual victim. Let’s talk about your future as an Olympian, or as a musician, or as an accountant, or as someone who prefers to get on with life without a pesky jail sentence. Shouldn’t a family member write a letter to discourage the judge from inconveniencing you? After all, you’ve never done anything like this before. Don’t you get a freebie?

Besides, it was so embarrassing to be convicted. You can hardly eat the lasagna at your favorite restaurant anymore; you just pick at the salad croutons. Of course, the victim can’t even go to restaurants, since you took his money and he no longer has a car, but you? You’ve the one suffering.

Would the victim’s reputation be damaged? Would people avoid him and whisper: “That’s the guy whose stuff was stolen”?

Should he feel ashamed that you robbed him?

Should he feel ruined?

Should the onus be on him to prove that he didn’t deserve to be robbed?

Should one of your parents beg the judge for leniency, asking why you should pay for 15 seconds “of action” with years in jail?

And would the judge grant the leniency?

Does the very idea of this even seem ludicrous?

I’d like to think so.