When bad things happen to good rapists


Yesterday I wrote a piece for Psychology Today entitled ‘When bad things happen to good mothers.’ In it I argued that the mother of the little boy who climbed into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, resulting in the death of the gorilla, does not deserve the vitriol directed at her on social media. The outrage she inspired tells us more about us and what we wish to believe about parenting, than about her. The truth, which is very difficult for some people to acknowledge, is that accidents happen even when mothers are as vigilant as they can possibly be.

Today’s social media clamor is also about parenting. People are justifiably outraged about the reprehensible letter written by the father of a rapist begging leniency for his son. The convicted rapist, Brock Turner, a Stanford University student-athlete was caught assaulting an unconscious woman outside his fraternity. Two men who happened to be bicycling nearby stopped the assault and held Turner until the police arrived.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]He’s a good rapist; he only raped one woman and it didn’t even take that long![/pullquote]

Turner was convicted and received a startlingly light sentence (6 months in jail despite being eligible for a 14 year prison sentence). Last week, his victim released an eloquent statement on impact of her assault. This week, a Stanford University Law Professor who is friend of her family released a copy of the letter written to the judge by the rapist’s father. To call it repugnant doesn’t even begin to capture its outrageousness.


Apparently being convicted of rape has been very hard on Brock:

As it stands now, Brock’s life has been deeply altered forever by the events of Jan 17th and 18th. He will never be his happy go lucky self with that easy going personality and welcoming smile. His every waking minute is consumed with worry, anxiety, fear, and depression. You can see this in his face, the way he walks, his weakened voice, his lack of appetite.

His father doesn’t understand why Brock has to endure this. He’s a good rapist; he only raped one woman and it didn’t even take that long!

That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action our of his 20 plus years of life.

Actually, it’s not a steep price to pay for raping someone. A six month jail sentence is a small price to pay for the heinous act of rape.

Clearly this reflects what activists call “rape culture,” the casual dismissal of sexual assault as “boys will be boys” and “she was drunk so she deserved it.”

But I fear that there is more going on here. Is it possible that Turner’s father would have written the same letter if he had been convicted of drunken driving, possibly insisting that a prison sentence was a steep price to pay for only 30 seconds of action, running a stop light and killing another driver? I wonder if Turner’s father is the ultimate incarnation of the snowplow parent.

The “snowplow parent” is defined as a person who constantly forces obstacles out of their kids’ paths. They have their eye on the future success of their child, and anyone or anything that stands in their way has to be removed.

… Helicopter parents hover and micro-manage out of fear…

Snowplow parents may also micro-manage … but they do so with an eye on the future. They want to remove any pain or difficulties from their children’s paths so that their kids can succeed…

They are like the mother of an acquaintance of one my sons. When her daughter, a senior in high school, was found to have stolen an exam from a teacher’s computer, and was given a zero as a result, the mother threatened to sue the school for ruining the child’s chances of getting into a good college, and the school backed down.

They are like the parents who call professors when their children get a bad grade in law school or try to attend job interviews or negotiate for better pay on their children’s behalf.

They lose sight of the fact that the goal of parenting isn’t to raise a child with fabulous credentials; the goal is to raise a child with fabulous morals.

I don’t doubt that Dan Turner’s anguish over his son’s conviction and sentencing is entirely genuine. We hurt when our children hurt. But the job of a parent is NOT to beg sufferance for children’s illegal actions.

Turner’s father apparently believes that a bad thing happened TO a good rapist, his son.

But there are no good rapists and jail sentences for rape are not bad things that happen TO rapists, but well deserved punishments FOR rapists. We send people to jail for a variety of reasons: punishment, rehabilitation and deterrence for others thinking about committing the same crime. In this case, Turner and society can benefit from all three.

Brock Turner is an adult who committed a heinous adult crime. Parenting often means supporting our children, even our adult children, through the consequences of their actions, but it SHOULDN’T mean helping them avoid the consequences of their actions, particularly if their actions involve breaking the law and harming others.

While we should not vilify parents for accidents like the boy who climbed into the gorilla exhibit, it is entirely appropriate to vilify parents who excuse their child’s deliberate illegal action and beg for leniency in an effort to soothe his feelings and ensure his success.