The case of Brock Turner, the Stanford student who spent three months in jail after sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, started an international conversation around rape. However, Turner wasn't technically convicted of rape. He was found guilty of felony sexual assault and required to register as a sex offender. Nevertheless, his photo now appears in a criminal justice textbook in the section defining rape.
At the time of the trial in 2016, California law defined sexual penetration by foreign objects as sexual assault, not rape. However, after Turner's conviction and subsequent light sentencing drew heavy criticism, the state passed two new laws expanding the definition of rape to include all forms of nonconsensual sex and prohibiting offenders who assaulted someone who was unconscious or intoxicated from just getting probation.
So, if Turner's trial happened today, his criminal classification would be different, but because of the legal language at the time, Turner is not a convicted rapist.
Fast forward to September 7, when Hannah Kendall Shuman, a criminal justice student at Washington State University, opened her Introduction to Criminal Justice textbook to see Turner's face under the "rape" section. Shuman wrote, "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."
Under his mugshot, the law book reads: "Brock Turner, a Stanford student who raped and assaulted an unconscious female college student behind a dumpster at a fraternity party, was recently released from jail after serving only three months. Some are shocked at how short this sentence is. 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 at all."
It's true that Turner's light sentence was a wakeup call for many about the fact that sexual assault offenders often spend little to no time in jail, as well as how race plays into sentencing and coverage of sexual assault cases. And Californians appalled by Turner's short stay in jail are still working to get Judge Aaron Persky removed from the bench.
Turner's case is an interesting one for students to analyse, especially since it led to rape laws being updated.
Mary Dodge, one of the book's co-author's, told Refinery29 she is in communication with the publisher, which will issue a statement after reviewing the matter. Turner's lawyer could not be reached for comment.