More than one million people are supporting a petition to remove Judge Aaron Persky from the bench after he sentenced Brock Turner to six months in county jail, spawning a national conversation about sexual violence and the institutions that are failing the survivors of sexual violence.
Turner was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman at Stanford University. The freshman was given six months in county jail and three years probation for his three felony counts of assault.
He could have been sentenced to 14 years in prison -- or six years, which is what the prosecution asked for -- but the judge thought "a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him."
“Judge Persky failed to see that the fact that Brock Turner is a white male star athlete at a prestigious university does not entitle him to leniency,” wrote petition starter, Maria Ruiz. “He also failed to send the message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class, race, gender or other factors.”
Since the petition was started six days ago, it has been signed by more than a million people in more than 150 countries. It’s been covered by media outlets from People Magazine and Seventeen Magazine to BBC, CBS News, and Reuters.
And a conversation about sexual assault has been front and center on social media spurred by Vice President Biden’s letter to the survivor, a PSA from the cast of HBO’s Girls, and support from notable figures like Brie Larson, Thandie Newton, and Judd Apatow.
See more petitions about the Stanford case at the Justice for Stanford Sexual Assault Survivor movement.
While a huge group is calling out what they see as failings of the justice system in this case, Stanford Association of Students for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) wants to talk about the university’s responsibility when it comes to preventing and responding to campus sexual assault.
Supported by more than 90,000 people -- among them students and alumni -- the group is asking Stanford University to apologize and offer support services to the survivor.
But they also want to see more resources allocated for sexual assault prevention and an increase in campus counseling resources for all survivors. And they would like to see a survey enacted that asks about the incidence of sexual violence occurring in fraternities.
The student group is just one group amongst many that are calling out institutions across the country to confront issues of sexual violence.
Darius Adams is asking the NCAA to institute a policy that bans violent athletes. A college athlete himself, Darius is fighting to protect survivors like his mother, who was raped by four football players at Oregon State in 1998.
Teresa Youngs, a survivor and Naval veteran, is pushing Congress to pass the Military Justice Improvement Act, which would put a specialized legal group in charge of investigating and prosecuting sex crimes in the military.
Amanda Nguyen, a sexual assault survivor, is demanding Congress pass a Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights, which would guarantee survivors the right to be notified of rights when reporting an assault and the right to know the medical information from their rape kit, among other things.
Her survivor rights advocacy group, RISE, wants to ensure this kind of legal protection for all survivors. Their movement includes petitions asking the same of states across the country.
These petitions represent a portion of the millions of Change.org users that are mobilizing to get justice for survivors sexual violence and creating a community working toward prevention of sexual violence.
What do you think growing conversation about sexual assault? Tell us in the comments.
Image courtesy of Stand with Leah’s Facebook page.