On Friday, Sept. 2, Brock Turner was released from Santa Clara County jail. Turner served three months of his six-month sexual assault sentence.
People across the country protested Turner’s early release. Last Friday, a dozen or so protesters gathered outside Turner’s family home in Dayton, Ohio. That same day, 20 University of Maine students protested Turner’s release on the steps of Fogler Library.
“We were protesting the judge [Persky], Turner’s actions and rape culture in general,” Sam Saucier shared. Saucier is a member of the Student Women’s Association (SWA) and president of the Student Alliance for Sexual Health (SASH) at UMaine.
On Jan. 18, 2015, ex-Stanford University student Brock Turner was arrested for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. On March 30, 2016, a unanimous jury verdict found Turner guilty of sexual assault. He was convicted of three felony charges: assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated or unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person and penetration of an unconscious person. Prosecutors asked that Turner be sentenced to six years in prison. However, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky gave Turner a six-month jail sentence and three years of probation. Judge Persky’s lenient decision instantly drew national attention. Over 1.3 million people signed a petition calling for Persky to be removed from his judicial position.
UMaine students held signs with words “rapist” and messages that called to end sexual assault on campus. One of the signs read: “I have BBQ sauce that’s been in the fridge longer than Brock Turner was in jail.”
“One of the reasons why people are afraid to come forward about being sexually assaulted is because people like Brock Turner only get 3 months,” Saucier said. “They [victims] are afraid that they are not going to be believed.”
The protesters demonstrated that they stand in solidarity with the victims of sexual assault.
“We want survivors to know that they are supported,” Saucier added.
The protest started at 10 a.m. and lasted for an hour. While some students did not pay attention to the demonstrators, others stopped to take pictures and some took the time to talk to the protestors. One of them was Dale Winslow, a senior at UMaine.
“I do think that there was a potential conflict of interest in terms of the case,” Winslow said. “The influence that his family has, appears to have been something that did not allow for a just punishment.”
“When it comes to things in our society that involve rape and sexual assault, it’s important to not only be aware, but try to get as much context as possible,” Winslow said.
Last week, the Maine chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon (Sig-Ep) held its annual campout on the mall. Brothers of Sig-Ep camped out for 24 hours all week to raise awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault.
“It was great to see the protest,” Sig-Ep brother Eddie Gonnella said. “A lot of people are unhappy about what happened. It’s a surprising verdict the fact that he [Turner] is already out.”
Members of the fraternity approached the protesters and handed out flyers about the Rock Against Rape concert.
Spruce Run-Womancare Alliance and Sig-Ep teamed up to present The Mallett Brothers and The Ghost of Paul Revere on Aug. 30 at the Somerset parking lot. Resources about sexual assault were available at the concert.
“Sexual assault is a really big issue for everyone at college,” Gonnella said. “A lot of the times, it gets thrown at just fraternity life or athletes. But really, it’s a problem across the entire college campus.”
According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1 in 5 undergraduate females will be sexually assaulted while in college.
Last Monday, California lawmakers unanimously passed a legislation that requires a prison sentence for people convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious person. If this bill becomes a law, probation, a prison term for the above crime would be mandated.
“Sexually assaulting an unconscious or intoxicated victim is a terrible crime and our laws need to reflect that,’ Bill Dodd, one of the bill’s authors, said. ”Letting felons convicted of such crimes get off with probation discourages other survivors from coming forward and sends the message that raping incapacitated victims is no big deal.”
“I think the protest is entirely appropriate; we have the ability to protest,” Winslow said. “I think that people should have the right to be outraged, and let the public know when they feel something is not okay.”
The Office of Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention is located on the 3rd floor of Memorial Union. If you would like to learn more about SWA or SASH, please contact Sam Saucier on FirstClass.