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‘Twenty minutes of action’

There are crimes of commission (doing something), and there are crimes of omission (not doing something). Very often, crimes of omission lead to crimes of commission. A father-and-son story in the news this past week provides a perfect example in the context of sexual assault.

Dan Turner’s son, Brock, raped an unconscious woman on the campus of Stanford University in January 2015. After he raped her behind a dumpster and left her naked on the ground, he tried to run away and was tackled and caught by witnesses. Brock Turner was convicted by a jury and, last week, received only six months in jail for sexual assault. A recall campaign has begun against the judge for letting a convicted rapist off so lightly. But Dan Turner has a different take.

Dan Turner said his son paid a “steep price” for “20 minutes of action.” He lost his chance to attend Stanford and his chance to swim in the Olympics. In his statement to the court, Dan Turner did not express his deep regret for the life-changing violation of the victim by his son. In fact, he totally ignored the impact on the 23-year-old victim. The statement the victim read to the court at Brock’s sentencing is stunning in its eloquence, including these words directed at Brock Turner: “Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.”

But Dan Turner only mourned the way his son’s life would be “deeply altered forever.” He mourned the loss of his son’s “happy-go-lucky self,” his “easygoing personality” and his “welcoming smile.” He lamented his son’s “loss of appetite, anxiety, fear and depression.” He noted how proficient his son had been at cooking a good ribeye steak before his prosecution for rape.

Turner denied his son’s actions were even an assault and instead characterized the forcible rape as “action.” He even went so far as to say that the conduct should not have resulted in any jail time for his son.

In Dan Turner’s own presentation to the judge is evidence of the clear genesis of Brock Turner’s new title: Convicted Rapist. Dan Turner thinks his son got some “action.” He thinks 20 minutes of violence and abuse should not be consequential in his son’s life. He thinks his son deserves a pass on the profound consequences of raping a woman because…? He is white? He is a college student? He has dreams and aspirations? He was a college level swim champion? Brock Turner is going to jail, albeit for too short a time, for a crime of commission. He committed a rape on an unconscious and defenseless woman. But perhaps his father should be held accountable for his crime of omission. He failed to educate his son. He never took the time to make sure that Brock knew as much about sexual assault as he did about cooking a good ribeye steak.

How could Dan Turner have changed the ending for his son in just 20 minutes? In 20 minutes, he could have Googled a website to educate his son on the prevalence and impact of rape on women and girls. He could have had him watch a video on consent to sexual intercourse before he sent him to Stanford University to “pursue his dreams.” He could have told his son that getting some “action” is not love, respect or honor toward women and girls. Perhaps when Brock Turner reports to jail for his crime of commission, we could put Dan Turner in jail as well for his crime of omission. At least for 20 minutes.

— Casey Gwinn


Casey Gwinn is the President of Alliance for HOPE International.  He is the former elected city attorney of San Diego. Gwinn is a graduate of Stanford University.

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