A California judge's lenient sentence for a convicted perpetrator of sexual assault sparked national outrage earlier this month, and everyone's favorite Magic Mike star has finally weighed in. During an a Facebook LIVE interview with Cosmopolitan, actor Channing Tatum said Stanford rapist Brock Turner should have been punished more harshly than he had been, telling editor-in-chief Joanna Coles that he believed Turner's paltry six-month sentence was much too lenient, and that "rape culture is a very real thing." Because Turner is expected to serve just three months of his sentence — the rough equivalent of a semester of college — and the powerful words of Turner's unnamed victim, there's no doubt many man agree with Tatum, and may want to re-watch Step Up now, too.
In early 2015, Turner, who is now 20, sexually assaulted a now-23-year-old woman behind a dumpster on Stanford's campus. She was unconscious at the time, and two graduate students caught Turner in the act, even chasing him down and tackling him as he ran. Fast forward about a year and a half, and despite all the evidence and the maximum sentence of 14 years, Judge Aaron Persky subjected him to the unbelievably short sentence, a move many criticized.
During the interview, for both intellectual, and, uh, physical, reasons, Tatum further cemented his status as a favorite of many women (both on and off screen) when he described the shock he felt after hearing the verdict:
I just couldn’t believe it. That is like if you killed someone, if you got caught red-handed murdering someone, and then just because you went to a nice school and you were a good swimmer, you somehow get a lesser sentence than what you would’ve for cold-blooded murder. I mean, that just doesn’t make any sense.
The 36-year-old star also voiced some of the same concerns that many administrators, politicians, and students are now dealing with, in relation to the rampant issue of sexual assault of college campuses. "I think he should've been punished, personally, but I also don't know what the answer is to protect women, to keep you out of those situations," he said.
Turner's unnamed victim, though, helped bring national attention to the case herself by sharing the heartbreaking letter she read to the judge at the sentencing and the effect the assault has had on her with BuzzFeed not too long after. In it, she described how the legal process re-victimized her. What society should be doing is teaching boys and men not to rape, she said. Instead, girls and women generally feel the responsibility to not get sexually assaulted, or they're frequently made to believe they were "asking for it" when they do:
I was pummeled with narrowed, pointed questions that dissected my personal life, love life, past life, family life, inane questions, accumulating trivial details to try and find an excuse for this guy who had me half naked before even bothering to ask for my name. After a physical assault, I was assaulted with questions designed to attack me, to say see, her facts don’t line up, she’s out of her mind, she’s practically an alcoholic, she probably wanted to hook up, he’s like an athlete right, they were both drunk, whatever, the hospital stuff she remembers is after the fact, why take it into account, Brock has a lot at stake so he’s having a really hard time right now.
Because he's a public figure and an influential cultural icon, Tatum's words are essential to the national dialogue about rape and sexual assault. He joined the national outcry against a system that coddles a convicted sex offender because he had a promising future ahead of him, and that sends a powerful message not just to the lawmakers and judges who dictate punishments for those who perpetrate sexual assault, but also helps to show anyone who's been a victim that their experience was not their own fault, and that fighting for assailants to be held accountable is a worthwhile task, even when it's so, so hard. We should all stand with them.