HELEN SMITH; Opinion Writer; smithhe@plu.edu

Over the summer two sexual assault cases dominated the news, both involving former college athletes assaulting unconscious women. One involved Brock Turner, while another involved Cory Batey and three other men. Even though Turner and Batey committed similar crimes, the judges presiding over their cases issued drastically different punishments.

Cory Batey received Tennessee’s minimum sentence of 15 years. Meanwhile, Brock Turner received a sentence of six months, which he only served half of.

This case is a textbook example of how race is treated in the justice system. Although both men were deserving of punishment for their crimes, Batey, who is African-American, was the only one held responsible for his actions, while Turner, who is white, was spared from having to pay for his crimes in any real way.

The light sentencings in both cases speak volumes about how in our justice system, concern for perpetrators of sexual assault sometimes trumps the trauma that survivors must endure. In Turner’s case, the judge who handed down the sentence was sympathetic to his situation, claiming a longer sentence would have left a “severe impact” and Turner would be better served with less time.

In practice, however, the sentence that was handed down to Turner ultimately protected only him from the severity of his own actions.

Brock Turner and Cory Batey both damaged the lives of the young women they assaulted, yet only one of them is serving a real sentence. While Batey is in prison for a similar crime to Turner, the latter has returned already to his home state of Ohio to begin living his life as a registered sex offender.

Although the differences in sentencing were drastic, one commonality between the two cases was the remorse of both judges in how the crimes would negatively affect the offenders. The judge in Cory Batey’s case expressed regret that Batey would have to live out the rest of his life as a registered sex offender after his release from prison.

The amount of concern displayed to both Turner and Batey is fairly ironic considering that little can be done to help heal the survivors of these crimes other than prosecuting both men to the fullest extent of the law.

Although Turner and Batey will both have to live out the rest of their lives as registered sex offenders, theirs is a different kind of life sentence because they’re paying for their own actions. The survivors of their crimes will never finish being survivors. The survivor of Brock Turner’s crime articulated this inequality in her letter to Turner when she wrote, “You are the cause, I am the effect.”

The consequences of Brock Turner and Cory Batey’s actions will never weigh quite as heavily on them as they will on their victims.


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