In March, Brock Turner was found guilty of three felonies: assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object. Although he faced up to 14 years in prison, Judge Aaron Persky sentenced him last week to only six months in county jail. It's reprehensible. It's a gross miscarriage of justice. And it almost didn't happen at all. Let's take a moment to recognize the witnesses in the Stanford sexual assault case, without whom there never would have been a case to begin with.
Grad students Peter Jonsson and Carl Fredrik Arndt were riding their bikes through the Stanford campus after midnight on January 18, 2015, when they saw a man lying on top of a woman near a dumpster by the Kappa Alpha fraternity. According to The Mercury News, Jonsson testified that once he realized that the woman wasn't moving, he called out to the man, later identified as Turner. "Hey, what the f are you doing?" he shouted. "She's unconscious." It was then that Turner fled. Jonsson and Arndt gave chase, and held Turner until police arrived. "She was unconscious. The entire time. I checked her and she didn't move at all," Arndt said in a corroborating testimony, according to CBS News.
The victim has no memory of the incident. If it weren't for Jonsson and Arndt, the assault likely would have progressed to rape, and the perpetrator may never have been identified. If they hadn't been riding by at that moment, the victim might never have known what happened to her. "[T]hank you to the two men who saved me, who I have yet to meet,” the victim said in her impact statement, which has been published in full by BuzzFeed. “I sleep with two bicycles that I drew taped above my bed to remind myself there are heroes in this story. That we are looking out for one another. To have known all of these people, to have felt their protection and love, is something I will never forget.” Yet despite Jonsson and Arndt's testimony, all Turner got was a slap on the wrist; six months that will likely turn into three with good behavior.
This story is tragic from beginning to end, but it could have been so much worse. So many rapes and sexual assaults go unreported. Of those that do get reported, many never make it to a courtroom. The Huffington Post reported that estimates suggest only 5 percent of rapists end up in prison. How many more might have been convicted if witnesses refused to look the other way? It was just over a year ago that hundreds of spring breakers stood by on a Florida beach while a woman was gang raped. According to local news outlet WJHG, charges against one of the assailants were dropped in January due to insufficient evidence. If only Jonsson and Arndt had been on the beach that day.