By now it is likely that we have all read the Stanford rape victim's powerful letter to her assailant. But following the outpouring of support for the victim, and all rape victims, a letter from Brock Turner's father, in which he asked the judge to be lenient on his son, caught the ire of the already incensed public — and for good reason. The tone and content of the letter immediately turned attention to the other side, with many wondering who Brock Turner's parents are and what they thought about the outcome of the case and the media frenzy surrounding it.
Turner's father Dan has come under some heavy scrutiny for the aforementioned letter in particular. The Dayton, Ohio father explained in his note to the judge that his son too had been deeply affected by the rape and the ensuing rape case. He explained that Brock had become despondent, lost his appetite and cheery disposition, and that any jail sentence, at all, would be a heavy price to pay for "20 minutes of action."
It was a very, very unfortunate turn of phrase that led many on social media to understand, in no small way, why perhaps 20-year old Brock had become the kind of person who believed that raping a semi-unconscious woman instead of calling for help would be perfectly forgivable. While Turner's mother Carleen has not made any public statement about the case or her son's actions, it's probably safe to assume that she approved of Dan Turner's statement before he gave it to the judge.
You don't have to be a parent to imagine how gut wrenching it might be to have your son be convicted for the violent rape of a woman. But instead of compassion for the victim, or at least showing a modicum of respect for the severity of their son's actions, the Turner family has assumed a victim role themselves.
In the wake of the release of their son's mugshot and media fallout, a Facebook page set up in May 2015 for the family has been taken down. You can still see a cached version of it, though. Apparently, the "Turner Family Support Fund" was set up by a "lifelong friend" of the family, according to an original post, who set up an account at a local credit union in Ohio for people to donate money to help with the mounting expenses of the legal case. There are pictures of Brock with his family, smiling, and looking just like any other American family. Beyond that, aside from a few public details — like the fact that Dan Turner is a "civilian Air Force employee," that he once supported South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, and that Carleen Turner is "a registered surgery nurse," according to Heavy — not much is known.
Bear with me here. There's a tiny part of me that feels for his parents. We always blame the parents for their children's actions — whether it's the mother of the 4-year-old who jumped into a moat at the Cincinnati Zoo a few weeks ago, or the mother of Ryan Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, who was posthumously dragged through the media mud following the tragedy for not "doing something" about her son's mental illness or allowing him access to firearms.
But that's the rub when it comes to empathy for the Turner family, as a whole. The outrage over Brock's sentencing comes down, on many levels, to a sense of entitlement that went into his defense and sentencing. The family's "support fund" is laden with images, not unlike those "all-American swimmer" headlines, that suggest he not only "didn't mean it," because alcohol was involved, but that also he didn't deserve to be punished for his crime.
Coming down on Brock's parents isn't about the fact that they "made" a rapist, because that's impossible, but that they haven't done anything, publicly at least, to show that they, as educated adults, understand the severity of his crime, the victim's trauma, and what consequences for actions mean. It's one thing if a 20-year-old boy somehow missed those lessons. It's scarier when the adults did, too.
I'm not a mother but I very clearly remember my mother pacing in the kitchen waiting for my teenage brother to come home past curfew. When he did make it home, stinky drunk on cheap beer from a bad high school party, safe but stupid, he was lectured not just about breaking the law and drinking (though of course, that was in there, too) but about how he shouldn't have sex with his then girlfriend, "at all!", but especially inebriated. The hours-long lecture the next morning wasn't just about not driving home drunk or and not picking fights with other hormone and Budweiser-fueled boys. It was all about "not being asshole," her words, not mine.
My mother's anguish that night and the years that followed, until my brother became a Marine and a smart, gainfully employed adult, is one I imagine that mothers of sons everywhere must feel. My mom wasn't just pacing because she was worried about him getting arrested or driving his car into a tree in the suburbs. I see now that she was thinking, "Crap, did I teach him how to be good man? Even after drinking?" She was petrified, coming from very little herself, that she might have raised an entitled, middle class white man.
"We can't protect you if you do something stupid," she told both of us, always (we were both risky teenagers). Talk about mom-guilt. Luckily, she was just a worrier. She did pretty darn good.
Brock's mother's silence, and to be quite frank, the fact that she might have approved of her husband's message to the judge about her son's lack of appetite and "action" makes me cringe. Forget a wife or mother, as a woman, it would feel better if anything the family has done up until now showed any sense of guilt or acknowledgement about what they have done. They're too busy appealing his 6 month jail sentence instead.
They believe he is innocent, even though the facts of the case and his sentence show that he raped someone. The appeal isn't about his innocence, but that he shouldn't go to jail. That's what's stomach turning.
I can understand protecting your family. And I can understand having to separate yourself from your child's heinous actions as a parent. But, still, it looks like there are no lessons to be learned in the Turner household, at all. That is one of the nastiest things about this case overall.