This is a subject that has already sparked fierce conversation. Brock Turner, convicted of rape (and numerous other charges) at Stanford University has finally been sentenced — and America was shocked to see him get what seems to be a “slap on the wrist.” Equally telling, it apparently took innumerable requests and public shaming by media outlets to force a release of Brock Turner’s mugshots by local police and university personnel.
I’m going to start off with some understanding, from the perspective of a parent of boy children. Times have changed. Sit with a minute. Times really have changed. I remember 20 years ago, when my oldest son was in very early elementary years, receiving calls from school about his behavioral issues. His father and I were in the throes of a sad and difficult divorce, and my son’s “behavioral” issues amounted to an emotional clinginess that meant he hugged his friends – a lot. It made other children uncomfortable. Not to mention my oldest grew up to be a football player – he was always a big-for-his-age kid. But there was nothing “bad” or “violent” or mean-spirited” about these behaviors. They simply made other kids “uncomfortable” (or for all I know, the teachers observing).
This entailed many long, and sometimes difficult discussions with him about personal space and respecting other people’s feelings. Painful as it was to be a mother who had taught her child to express his feelings, I was completely supportive of the notion expressed by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., “Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.” As I explained it to my eight-year-old, “doing what you want is fine, except as it may affect others.” As we went on to discover, that accounts for a great majority of life’s actions, and that’s indicative of our current, politically correct, changing morality based on current affairs (which is a whole ‘nother blog post). Point being, I didn’t believe there was anything wrong with my son’s hugging, but that doesn’t mean that OTHERs had to accept being subjected to it. And as his mother, it was MY job to insure he understood that, embodied it, and lived in that manner until he was grown. And when I say things have changed, I mean that back then — 20 years ago — was the beginning of the “zero tolerance policy” in local public schools for all kinds of behaviors. I struggled with knowing that my child would be marked within his school files by teachers who had “zero tolerance” and that was bad enough. The concern of Mr. Turner’s parents is legitimate and understandable, but in no way minimizes the damages HIS actions inflicted on this young woman.
Coming back to Mr. Turner, one of the many things I found appalling about the case were the comments made by his father. I understand the fear and concern he would have for his child and his child’s future, the need to register as a sexual predator, the loss of his scholarship. I understand it. But where was this father’s concerns for the young woman who was damaged by his child’s actions? I understand that she may have had too much to drink, but that doesn’t mean she’s fair game for abusive behavior. I would like to believe that I raised my sons to assist a young woman in this position, as opposed to taking advantage of her. That had better be the case.
I understand that people make mistakes, but I would like to believe that good people who have been raised to know right from wrong would not make a mistake KNOWING they were causing harm to another human being (and from the evidence used to convict Mr. Turner, I’m not sure how he could have been confused on that issue). That’s not a mistake, in my opinion, that’s predatory behavior, and it’s CHOICE.
I do not believe the American justice system is well-suited to address the failures of parenting that take place in our country every day. There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t see something in the news that leads me to question, “who’s raising whom?” in that family. Whether it’s the badly behaved children at the grocery store directing their harried parents on what junk foods to put in their cart, or the sad outcome of the Cincinnati Zoo trip by a mom and a group of children that apparently was too large to handle responsibly. I’m not saying THAT mother did anything wrong, other than make an assumption she could handle a situation that seems, in hindsight, to be fraught with danger. I heard the news report this morning that the mother was at the zoo with her son, three younger daughters and a friend’s two additional children. That’s 6 on 1, people. That’s a lot of little people to keep track of. But I digress. I’m happy that child is safe. I’m sorry the gorilla was shot. I understand the logic of the zoo personnel that had to make that unfortunate decision to take action, and I think it was the right action. At this point in time, I do believe human life still takes precedence, although I believe even that may be changing. Anyway…
Where is Carleen Turner (Mr. Turner’s mother) in all this? I understand she’s a registered nurse, which means she sees the fallout from this type of behavior regularly. I would imagine she is very torn – torn between protecting her child and knowing that somewhere along the way something went very wrong. Something between that middle-America upbringing and the prestigious and entitled scholarship to swim for Stanford University in exchange for a West-Coast-Ivy-League education.
This case highlights many of the worst attributes in America these days: inattentive parenting, the entitlement generation, that haves vs. have-nots discussion are just the tip of the iceberg. But in the end, I think it comes down to two things: (1) Bad acts perpetrated on other people have repercussions regardless of intent – on the victim and often beyond; and (2) Once that bad act is done, the damage cannot be undone. The best we can hope is to learn from the mistakes of the past. And if we cannot be assured of that, then it is our sad duty as a society to provide sufficient negative reinforcement to dissuade other bad acts and those who would perpetrate them. Otherwise, we must live in anarchy.
Sadly, in this instance, it seems we’ve failed all around. I sincerely hope the victim in this case can move forward with living a healthy — and happy — life. She seems a strong and intelligent young woman, capable of overcoming this thing, without letting it define her. I pray she can and will. Her statement to Mr. Turner seemed to indicate that she has a fine grasp on right and wrong and can turn even this to something she will build good things on. I hope that Mr. Turner has at long last learned a lesson that apparently he missed out on as a child. I’m sure the punishment seems very harsh in view of the fact that he doesn’t seem to understand he has perpetrated a crime. I hope he learns enough to never hurt another person like this again. And I hope we all learn what can happen, and to think about it when we’re too tired to make that correction, too frustrated to have that conversation, and too overwhelmed with work to SEE what’s happening in our kids’ lives. We owe them that. We owe each other that.