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Why Brock Turner Wasn’t Technically Convicted of Rape

Brock Turner.
Brock Turner. Photo: Courtesy of the Santa Clara County Sheriff

While Brock Turner, the ex-Stanford student who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman behind a dumpster last year, has formally been sentenced on three counts of felony sexual assault,  he is not being described as a convicted rapist in the media. Many people have been asking why. Here’s your answer. Warning: It’s pretty unsatisfying.

In California, rape is defined as someone using “physical force, intimidation, duress, or threats to persuade the victim to engage in sexual intercourse.” In the case of Turner’s rape of an unconscious woman, witnesses and testimony determined that Turner penetrated his victim with a foreign object, not a sexual organ. His victim, who read powerful testimony in court directly addressing Turner, explained what she learned after the attack:

Never mentioned me voicing consent, never mentioned us even speaking, a back rub. One more time, in public news, I learned that my ass and vagina were completely exposed outside, my breasts had been groped, fingers had been jabbed inside me along with pine needles and debris, my bare skin and head had been rubbing against the ground behind a dumpster, while an erect freshman was humping my half naked, unconscious body. But I don’t remember, so how do I prove I didn’t like it.

In the eyes of the law, what Turner did to his victim is considered sexual assault and not rape, no matter how horrific it sounds. The three charges Turner was convicted of are “assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.”

Intent to commit rape, legally, is not the same as sexually penetrating a person, and therefore, Turner is not being described as a convicted rapist. But he is now a registered sex offender for the rest of his life.

Why Brock Turner Wasn’t Convicted of Rape