A Letter to Brock Turner’s Mom, From Another Mom

Dear Mrs. Turner,

Can I call you Carleen? You can call me Jenny. I don’t imagine we’re all that different, you and I. After all, we were both born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. We both have raised our kids here, two sons and a daughter each. We are both working moms. And since I can tell from your letter to Judge Persky on your son’s behalf, that you love your children very much, we have that in common as well.

I really cannot imagine what you are going through right now. The Internet wants your son’s head on a platter, and I’ve voiced my dissension at his light sentence for three felony count of sexual assault right along with them. But let me be clear, Carleen, if he had been sentenced to an appropriate amount of time in jail—3 or 6 years instead of 3 or 6 months—the public at large simply would not be so angry. Your letter to the judge and your husband’s letter, displaying your love for your son but also your belief in his innocence and your disbelief that he should be punished for his crimes would never have been made public. I probably would not even know your name.

In all honesty, with the bashing your family is taking over this, I think it might have worked out better for you if Brock had been sentenced to a few years in prison after all. I know that’s not what you wanted, but in the end, I don’t think Judge Persky did you a favor.

But I digress. I want to talk to you about your letter about your “beautiful son.” I have two beautiful sons of my own and should they ever find themselves on trial for such a crime, you can bet I’d be right there by their side, just as you were for your son. But if I’d heard such evidence, SUCH evidence of their crimes, heard the eyewitness testimony describing his behavior and detailing the victim’s injuries…well, I don’t think I could write a letter to the judge asking for leniency based on his swimming scores and his achievements at popcorn sales when he was a Boy Scout.

Carleen, you have a daughter. And since statistics show that 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, I find it unbelievable that you haven’t been able to see your daughter in the victim’s eyes, hear her voice in the victim’s powerful words. How could you write a letter to the judge lamenting the fact that you haven’t been able to enjoy your new home because you’ve been so grief-stricken, and not even once mention the girl whose problems are so much more earth-shattering because of her encounter with your son, because of his crimes? I know you say you believe in his innocence, but this line from your letter stunned me: “We knew once he had to opportunity to tell what happened this would all go away.”

It’s never going to go away for his victim, whether you consider her a victim or not—and whether you want to admit it or not, the eyewitness testimony, the two Swedes on bicycles who were moved to tears by what they saw your son doing to an unconscious girl, and the jury’s verdict prove that she is indeed his victim.

Your words were: “We knew once he had to opportunity to tell what happened this would all go away.”

Her words were:You have dragged me through this hell with you, dipped me back into that night again and again. You knocked down both our towers, I collapsed at the same time you did. Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.”

It’s not going away for her, ever. Although you say in your letter that you think Brock’s life is over, well, I am quite certain that his life will never be quite as damaged as hers is.

As a woman, as a mother to a daughter, I guess that is what disappoints me the most about your defense of your son. The complete lack of recognition that another life has been altered through no fault of her own.

Please, please, let your son know that moving forward, you won’t excuse any bad choices he makes. That in the future, you will hold him responsible for his actions. Please tell him, impress upon him, that he cannot just do what he wants and expect no one else to be affected.

You are perhaps the most influential person in your son’s life. And thus far, you’ve sent a message to him and to the world that is harmful to the cause of women. It’s not too late to change that, Carleen. I honestly do  hope your family can eventually move forward, and that Brock can turn his life around and do good—but I don’t think that will be possible until you are able to admit some core things about his culpability and responsibility.

I pray you can all do that.

All the best,

Jenny Rapson


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Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her blog, Mommin' It Up, or follow her on Twitter.