Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth
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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

Brock Turner Is Now the Textbook Definition of 'Rape' in Criminal Justice Classes [Updated]

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Brock Turner, the man who spent only three months behind bars for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, is now literally the textbook definition of “rape.”

Washington State University student Hannah Kendall Shuman recently shared on Facebook a photo of her Criminal Justice 101 textbook, Introduction to Criminal Justice: Systems, Diversity, and Change, 2nd Edition, which featured Turner’s mugshot under the section “Rape.”

“Some are shocked at how short this sentence is,” the caption reads. “Others who are more familiar with the way sexual violence has been handled in the criminal justice system are shocked that he was found guilty and served time at all. What do you think?”

Despite not taking any responsibility for his crime—which he blamed on alcohol—the former Stanford swimmer received lenient sentencing from Judge Aaron Persky, who said, “I think he will not be a danger to others.” And remember, too, that Turner spent more time in jail than 97 percent of rapists ever do.

“He may have been able to get out of prison time but in my Criminal Justice 101 textbook, Brock Turner is the definition of rape, so he’s got that goin for him,” Shuman wrote in her post, which has since gone viral.

The textbook authors, University of Colorado-Denver School of Public Affairs professors Mary Dodge and Callie Rennison, declined to comment on their decision to include Turner’s photo in the text. But Rennison spoke generally about her approach to the book, which focuses on the victims, when she was named the recipient of the Bonnie S. Fisher Victimology Career Award from the American Society of Criminology last November. “Existing criminal justice books have focused on three elements: cops, courts and corrections,” she said. “They speak little about victims, reflecting how they have effectively been in the shadows of our criminal justice system. In our book, victims are front and center with equal emphasis as cops, courts and corrections. This is the way it should be.”

Update 9/18, 12:16 pm: Rennison emailed Jezebel the following statement on the decision to include Turner’s photo in the textbook and the reaction they’ve received since:

When we set out to write this introductory textbook, we I [sic] wanted to incorporate many things we saw missing from existing texts including diversity, attention to victims, and contemporary topics. We also wanted to present a view of the real Criminal Justice system versus the ideal that is discussed in most other books. To accomplish this, we included many contemporary topics and material that students routinely ask about. For example, students ask about human and sex trafficking – we included that. Students ask about careers such as being a crime analyst – we included that. Students ask about college student victimization/campus violence – we included that. And related to that topic, students ask about Mr. Brock Turner.

Mr. Turner received a great deal of media coverage following the acts he committed. There was widespread coverage in the media and in classrooms about the fact that he served three months of a six-month sentence. Most viewed this sentence as too lenient. Others were shocked that Mr. Turner served three months because most perpetrators of sexual violence serve no jail or prison time. The media coverage, the fact that he is widely known among college students, and that there is general outrage of the sentence he served is why Mr. Turner shows up in the text and this is why the discussion question below his photo is posed. His case offers a real teaching moment to discuss sexual violence and the way the criminal justice system generally addresses them.

As far as reaction – it has been almost entirely positive. People appear eager to continue the conversation about how sexual violence is viewed/treated in the criminal justice system, and the improvements that need to be made. A goal of our book is to challenge students to think about some difficult situations and the policies surrounding them in the CJ system. We hope to contribute to educating a new generation of people who can address these issues in the system for the better of all.