On the night of January 18, 2015, then 22-year-old “Emily Doe” was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner, a 19 year-old college student at the time, while she was unconscious behind a dumpster on Stanford University’s campus in Palo Alto, Calif. She had attended a college party earlier in the evening, where she met Turner for the first time.
As part of Turner’s trial — on felony charges of attempted rape and sexual assault — a year later, Doe wrote a powerful 7,000 word statement addressed primarily to him. “You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today,” it began. It was read by millions around the world, on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and translated into five languages. Now, she’s writing a book about the assault, the trial, and her recovery.
Turner, a former star swimmer at Stanford, was sentenced to six months in a county jail and probation for the three felonies relating to the assault. However, the law prescribes a minimum of two years for his convictions, and a potential maximum sentence of 14 years in a state prison. (Prosecutors in the case asked for a six year sentence.) The sentencing judge, Aaron Persky, cited Turner’s age, lack of criminal record, and apparent remorse as mitigating factors, sparking public outrage and accusations that his lenient treatment was due to his being a white athlete from a top university. Turner was later released after serving just three months.
During a court hearing, Doe read a condensed version of her statement, which described the assault and the “excruciating” interrogation during the trial. “The fact that Brock was a star athlete at a prestigious university should not be seen as an entitlement to leniency,” she wrote, “but as an opportunity to send a strong cultural message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class.”
She said the most damaging part of her ordeal was the victim-blaming she endured. “I was told that because I couldn’t remember, I technically could not prove it was unwanted. And that distorted me, damaged me, almost broke me. It is the saddest type of confusion to be told I was assaulted and nearly raped, blatantly out in the open, but [law enforcement officers] don’t know if it counts as assault yet,” she wrote.
Her uncompromising account was praised around the world. The then U.S. vice president Joe Biden wrote an open letter, provided to BuzzFeed, calling her a “warrior.”
“Your words are forever seared on my soul,” Biden wrote. “Words that should be required reading for men and women of all ages. Words that I wish with all of my heart you never had to write.”
After the case, sexual assault laws in California were changed, making it mandatory for rapists to serve time in a state prison, and to allow victims to use the word “rape” in court even if their attack didn’t meet the technical definition under state law. Rape used to be defined by in the state’s laws in terms of sexual intercourse, but it now falls under the broader category of sexual assault, which includes other offenses like “unwanted sexual contact”. In 2018, Persky was removed from office by voters, the first judge to be removed this way in California for more than 80 years.
The memoir, yet to be titled, will be released in September. In a statement, Viking, the book’s publisher, called it “a singular journey that will change the way we talk about sexual assault forever.. “The publishing house’s U.S. editor in chief, Andrea Schulz, added that, “Emily Doe’s experience illuminates a culture built to protect perpetrators and a criminal justice system designed to fail the most vulnerable.”
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