Santa Clara Sheriff's Department

Why Brock Turner Has To Stop Blaming Alcohol

Former Stanford student and convicted sexual offender Brock Turner has been all over social media feeds and all over the Internet of late for a good reason. Turner's crime and light sentence, as well as its long term effect on his victim is incredibly poignant. But as more details of Turner's trial are released, there seems to be a problem. In his own personal letter to the judge (and his friends and families are guilty of this as well), Turner blames the assault on alcohol rather than taking personal responsibility for his actions. For so many different reasons, Brock Turner has got to stop blaming alcohol for his actions that night.

In his statement to the judge obtained by The Guardian, Turner tries to provide reasoning for why he did the things he did that night — barely even acknowledging that he even assaulted a woman. What Turner turns to, however, is not his own faults or actions but alcohol to explain what he did and why he did it. "I wish I had the ability to go back in time and never pick up a drink that night, let alone interact with [redacted]," Turner writers. "I can barely hold a conversation with someone without thinking these thoughts. They torture me."

Later on in his letter, Turner once again places the blame for the assault on alcohol, rather than his own actions:

At this point in my life, I never want to have a drop of alcohol again. I never want to attend a social gathering that involves alcohol or any situation where people make decisions based on substances they've consumed. I never want to experience a situation where it will have a negative impact on my life or someone else's ever again.

I'll say it once more: Turner has got to stop blaming alcohol for his actions. What this tells women, especially victims of rape and assault, is that alcohol is the one who makes these decisions not the perpetrator of the crime. Therefore, a sentence should be lessened because alcohol "committed" the crime. Alcohol in this particular situation is used as a heavily leaned-upon crutch to explain away Turner's conviction — and that's just irresponsible.

It seems like Turner's family and friends agree, blaming alcohol, rather than Turner's faulty personal responsibility, in their own letters to the judge. In her letter to the judge, childhood friend Leslie Rasmussen went one step further, suggesting that alcohol and universities are to blame in most campus rapes across the country:

It is because these universities market themselves as the biggest party schools in the country. They encourage drinking. I think it is disgusting and I am so sick of hearing that these young men are monsters when really, you are throwing barely 20-somethings into these camp-like university environments, supporting partying, and then your mind is blown when things get out of hand.... These are not rapists.

In her powerful statement to the judge, however, the victim references this decision to place the blame on alcohol and puts it to rest in a powerful way:

Campus drinking culture. That's what we're speaking out against? You think thats what I've spent the past year fighting for? Not awareness about campus sexual assault, or rape, or learning to recognize consent. Campus drinking culture..You realize, having a drinking problem is different than drinking and then forcefully trying to have sex with someone? Show men how to respect women, not to drink less.

Brock Turner placing the blame for his crime on booze shows that he is not remorseful for committing the crime, just remorseful that he went to a college party and drank too much. Before doing that, he needs to look at why he committed those actions in the first place, outside of the influence of alcohol — because while it probably played a role in the crime, it certainly didn't cause it (not to mention that plenty of other college students got drunk that night and didn't rape anyone). Whether it's sending a drunk text or committing sexual assault, it's important to remember that alcohol cannot commit crimes — but rapists can.