Outcry over Stanford sex assault sentence forwards tough conversation

WASHINGTON — The social media reaction to the six-month sentence given to Brock Turner — the former Stanford University swimmer convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman — is advancing a conversation about sexual consent, a topic that hasn’t been easy to introduce.

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A video comparing sexual consent to offering someone a cup of tea released months ago out of the U.K. is going viral once again in the wake of the sentencing. Message boards are lighting up, as are newsfeeds with references to Judge Aaron Persky’s decision.

Although the case’s outcome is not one supported by most women’s sexual health advocates, some see the robust response on social media as an opportunity to talk about consent and sexual abuse.

“These are raw emotions and raw words,” Beth Anne Langrell with the For All Seasons rape crisis center said about the testimony that the victim chose to make public.

“I think between the true feeling of the victim being put out before perceptions, and also I think for many people in the community this is not a topic that is a sexy topic to talk about,” she said, adding that is the story has taken such a strong hold online.

Vice President Joe Biden’s open letter to the victim about the role outsiders played by stepping in to help is also prompting discussions about bystander behavior, Langrell said.

“You’re able to say, ‘Who would I be in that moment?’ And that’s where I think the power of social media is good because people are able to say, ‘That would be me’,” Langrell said.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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