Women's Rights

How People are Reacting to the Stanford Rape Case

It’s been two weeks since “Emily Doe” — a victim of sexual assault — published a statement directed to Brock Turner, the Stanford athlete who was convicted of sexually assaulting her, but only got a six-month jail sentence.

Since then, an unprecedented national conversation has exploded about the role of universities and the legal system in preventing sexual violence and supporting survivors. Now outraged students, citizens, and legislators are taking action.

You probably heard about the petitions to remove the judge involved in the case from the bench, but here’s some of what else has happened in the weeks following Turner’s sentencing:

  • California congresswoman Jackie Speier and other House members read Emily Doe’s statement on the House floor. Congresswoman Speier explained her actions stating, “Emily Doe is a survivor in every sense of the word, and her words deserve to be amplified.” That statement, which took almost an hour to read on the floor, is now a part of the Congressional record.

  • Judge Aaron Persky, who sentenced Turner to six months for the rape of Emily Doe, has been removed from a new sexual assault case. After Judge Persky dismissed a misdemeanor theft case mid-trial, Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen filed a peremptory challenge against Judge Persky citing a lack of confidence in his ability to fairly participate in another sexual assault case.

  • At least ten jurors refuse to serve in juries where Judge Persky is presiding. Prospective jurors have asked to not be included on his trials, telling Persky, “I can’t believe what you did,” and “I can’t be here, I’m so upset.”

  • The Stanford Women’s Swimming Team wasn’t allowed to contact Judge Persky. It’s been said that the women’s swim team had discussed submitting letters to Judge Persky, but weren’t allowed. “There were rumblings that the women were pressured by Stanford officials to not do it since they hadn’t witnessed any crime that Brock had committed,” the insider told In Touch.

  • Students protest Stanford’s handling of sexual assault during graduation. Students held signs and decorated their hats with messages expressing their disgust with Stanford’s response to Turner’s sexual assault of “Emily Doe.”

All of the coverage of the case has spurred a lot of action on Change.org as well. Campaigns related to the Stanford case are now supported by millions of people. These campaigns attempt to confront issues of sexual violence in different institutions and by different means.  Here are a few updates on things we’re seeing take off on the site:

California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, Vice-Chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus, noticed a loophole in California rape legislation that allowed Turner to get off with a lenient sentence, and decided to do something about it. She started a petition asking the California legislature to update the state’s definition of rape.

“Prosecutors in California were not able to charge Turner with rape because he used his fingers and not his penis to rape a woman – and under California law, rape is defined as ‘sexual penetration,’” writes Assemblywoman Garcia.“This narrow and antiquated understanding of rape has already allowed one rapist to avoid serious punishment.”

Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, Chair of the LGBT Caucus, joined Garcia in introducing the bill, which is also supported by Assemblymembers Susan Bonilla, Mike Gatto, Patty Lopez, and Das Williams along with Senator Connie Leyva.

Maria Ruiz’s petition asking the California legislature to impeach Judge Aaron Persky has more than 1.25 million signatures.  She’s now started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for two organizations dedicated to ending sexual assault and violence against women: Know Your IX, a survivor-and youth-led organization that aims to empower students to end sexual violence in their schools, and ENDTHEBACKLOG, an organization that advocates for legislative reforms to get the hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits processed.

Her crowdfunding campaign is also raising money so that she can deliver all 1.25 million signatures on her petition to the California legislature.

Another petition that has seen significant growth asks Stanford to be more transparent about how it handles reports of sexual assault. It has more than 30,000 signatures.

“One student is sexually assaulted every two weeks at Stanford. I’m afraid for my safety, knowing how many of my friends have suffered from sexual violence and coercion at the hands of my classmates … Despite the high barrier of proof used in these investigations, despite the university’s certain knowledge that these people are threats, Stanford keeps this knowledge a secret,” writes the Stanford Survivor Solidarity Network, which started the petition.

Darius Adams, started a petition asking the NCAA to ban violent athletes, including those that commit sexual assault. It now has more than 125,000 supporters and has been covered by major media outlets like Slate.

Darius is speaking out as both an athlete and the son of a rape survivor. In 1998, Darius’s mother was drugged and gang-raped by four football players and in 2014 went public with her story to help stop sexual violence against women.

NCAA Board of Governors Chair L. Jay Lemons and President Mark Emmert told the Huffington Post that its sexual violence policies would be discussed at the board’s meeting in August.


How would you like to see our institutions prevent sexual violence and support survivors? Tell us in the comments.


Image courtesy of Stand with Leah’s Facebook page.

Written by
Kate Davey
June 17, 2016 9:46 pm