To Brock Turner’s Father, From Another Father


Dear Mr. Turner,

I’ve read your letter to the judge on behalf of your son Brock, asking for leniency in his rape conviction.

I need you to understand something, and I say this as a father who dearly loves my son as much as you must love yours:

Brock is not the victim here.
His victim is the victim.
She is the wounded one.
He is the damager.

If his life has been “deeply altered” it is because he has horribly altered another human being; because he made a reprehensible choice to take advantage of someone for his own pleasure. This young woman will be dealing with this for far longer than the embarrassingly short six months your son is being penalized. She will endure the unthinkable trauma of his “20 minutes of action” for the duration of her lifetime, and the fact that you seem unaware of this fact is exactly why we have a problem.

This is why young men continue to rape women.
This is why so many men believe that they can do whatever they please to a woman’s body without accountability.
This is the reason so many victims of sexual assault never step forward.
This is why white privilege is real and insidious and usually those with it are oblivious to it.

I understand you trying to humanize your son in your letter; talking to the judge about his favorite snacks and swim practice and about the memories that are sweet for you as his father—but to be honest I don’t give a damn and if his victim was your daughter I’m quite sure you wouldn’t either.

I imagine this young woman had favorite snacks and sports too, and parents who had wonderful plans for her that didn’t include this nightmare.

There is no scenario where your son should be the sympathetic figure here. He is the assailant. He is the rapist. I can’t imagine as a father how gut wrenching such a reality is for you, but it is still true. 

Brock has to register as a sex offender because he sexually assaulted an incapacitated young woman. This is why we have such requirements; because one vile act against another human being is one too many, because we don’t get a do-over when we do unspeakable things, because people need to be protected with knowledge of others in their midst who have failed so egregiously at respecting another person’s basic dignity.

The idea that your son has never violated another woman next to a dumpster before isn’t a credit to his character. We don’t get kudos for only raping one person in our lifetime. I don’t believe your son is a monster but he acted like one and that needs to be accounted for. To be sure, this decision is not the sum total of Brock’s life, but it is an important part of the equation and it matters deeply. 

And to be clear, Mr. Turner,”alcohol and sexual promiscuity” are not the story here. The story here, is that young men have choices to make and these choices define them, even if those choices are made when temptation is great and opportunity is abundant. In fact, our humanity is most expressed when faced with such things, we choose integrity and decency; when we abstain from doing what is easy but wrong.

We as parents don’t control our children. Most parents understand this. Despite our best efforts to the contrary, they fail and fall and do things we’d never consent to. I certainly hope this is such an occasion, though it is not coming across that way in your letter. It feels like you want more sympathy and goodwill toward your son than you want for the survivor of his crime, and that’s simply not good enough for her or for those young men and women watching.

Here is her story.

You love your son and you should. But love him enough to teach him to own the terrible decisions he’s made, to pay the debt to society as prescribed, and then to find a redemptive path to walk, doing the great work in the world that you say he will.

For now though, as one father to another: help us teach our children to do better—by letting them see us do better.


Note from John: This post went viral, which I am extremely grateful for, but THIS is where we go from here. This is more important than one blog post.


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1,310 thoughts on “To Brock Turner’s Father, From Another Father

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  9. Thank you for this, John!!! You are exactly right in that the choice was Brock’s, and he chose poorly. Parents: take note! Don’t rob your kids of a life lesson. No matter the size of the consequence, if you make the choice, you are choosing to pay the consequence. It’s unfortunate that Brock did not learn this life lesson earlier, but with jail time, probation, and registering as a sex offender, I hope he learns it now. SHE is the victim, not Brock. As is written in the book “The Two Sides of Love”, there must be a balance between hard-side of love and soft-side of love. Now, Mr. Turner, is the time that you tell Brock you love him (soft-side), and BECAUSE you love him, you love him enough to let him face the consequences of his actions (hard-side). You have the chance to support the law, the consequence, (and later) the need to speak to others about the choices he made and the consequences he paid. How much impact will he have if he’s a speaker who says, “Don’t take advantage of people or rape anyone. You’ll have to be on probation.” Ummmm, NO! The impact comes from trial, jail, probation, registered sex offender, and the fact that the LIFE of the VICTIM is FOREVER CHANGED!! I’m a mom of 3, first and foremost, but I’m also a therapist. Believe me, when I tell you that she is forever changed. I know that his “20 minutes of action” will repeatedly sneak up and hit her for the rest of her life. In those times, she will self-medicate, go to therapy, hurt others, dive into a deep depression–the possibilities are endless, but she will recall this offense over and over again. Brock made a mistake, yes. However, it was his choice. Mistakes are prime opportunities for lessons learned. Mr. Turner, please love him enough to let him learn this lesson.

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  12. Throwing the death penalty at rapists solves nothing. It’s yet another power transfer to the government (which should not be able to execute its citizens in a civilized country–the US just happens not to be one, by this metric). Death penalties are uncontroversially not a deterrent, anywhere, ever. Education is the only solution.

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  18. Sexual Assault is a very serious issue on college campuses that many people overlook. This case shed light on the everyday injustices that happen on campuses around the United States. In a 2016 study released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an average of approximately 21% of undergraduate women across the nine schools surveyed reported experiencing sexual assault since entering college. That is too many, and that number is rising every year. We need to find an effective way to stop things like this from happening, and this letter is helping us get one step closer.

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