Easy Punishment For Stanford Rapist Leads S.F. School Board Member To Share Own Rape Story

Rachel Norton shares own rape story for first time

It took 30 years — and another campus rape, coupled with almost absurdly light punishment for the rapistto compel Rachel Norton to share the story of her own rape.

Norton is a member of the San Francisco Board of Education and the mother of teenage daughters. After the news that former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner was sentenced to six months in county jail for raping an unconscious woman at a campus party — prosecutors had recommended six years — Norton took to her personal website to say that she, too, had been raped in college, by an acquaintance with whom she had been drinking.

And she went on to say that Judge Aaron Persky — who, like Turner, attended Stanford — likely went easy on him because of race.

[jump] Turner, recall, was busy copulating with an unconscious woman behind a dumpster following a frat party in January 2015 (unconscious people cannot consent to anything, let alone a sexual encounter) when two other Stanford students discovered him in the act, chased him down, and held him down until authorities arrived. Earlier this year, the 20-year-old was convicted of three felonies. 

Norton's story is far less graphic. She was conscious. She knew her attacker (two things common to rape). She was not battered or bruised, all things that happened to Turner's articulate victim.

And according to an interview with the Chronicle's Jill Tucker, Norton wasn't even convinced at first that it was rape after it happened. But hearing about Turner's light punishment led her to believe that a culture that doubts and even blames rape victims is still alive and well. 

“I never reported it, because the situation was consensual up to a point, until it wasn’t,” she wrote on her website. “I was confused enough, and drunk enough, that I could never completely make sense of what happened, even though I felt violated and ashamed after he left. I never spoke to him again.”

Beyond rape culture, Norton says white supremacy was at play.

“Judge Aaron Persky took class and privilege into account,” she wrote. “[I]f the circumstances were the same, but the attacker had been a young black man from East Palo Alto rather than a white, star Stanford swimmer named Brock Allen Turner, would the sentence have been the same? I think it would have been far harsher.”

With good behavior, Turner will likely do as little as 90 days in jail — meaning he would very likely have spent more time behind bars for a DUI, an offense treated very seriously thanks to a decades-long public relations campaign about the perils of drunk driving.

You could ask why sexual assault — a crime for which the arrest rate in San Francisco hovers around 10 percent — has not been treated the same way. But you might know the answer already.

Norton also points out that San Jose Mercury News columnist Scott Herhold blamed the whole affair — the “20  minutes of action,” in the words of Turner's father — on campus drinking culture.

He had the culture bit right, but that's about it. 

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