A childhood friend of former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner has come under fire after a letter she wrote supporting Turner was made public, with many blasting her for being an apologist for a rapist.
Leslie Rasmussen, 20, who grew up in Ohio with Turner, wrote in the letter that “I don’t think it’s fair to base the fate of the next ten+ years of his life on the decision of a girl who doesn’t remember anything but the amount she drank to press charges against him.”
She said Turner used to be known as a swim star, but now it is like he is the “face of rape on campuses.”
Rasmussen is the drummer of the up-and-coming indie grunge-pop band Good English, along with her two sisters, Elizabeth and Celia, and the outrage has spilled over to her music career. Several concert venues and festivals have cancelled the band’s upcoming appearances.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Leslie Rasmussen Said ‘Rape on Campuses Isn’t Always Because People Are Rapists’
In the letter, Leslie Rasmussen said she thinks the incident is a “misunderstanding” and Brock Turner should have been found innocent. She also blamed drinking, by both the victim and Turner, for what happened, not his actions.
“I am not blaming her directly for this, because that isn’t right,” Rasmussen wrote. “But where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn’t always because people are rapists.”
She said Turner is “far from a monster” and said she doesn’t think he intended to harm the woman.
Rasmusssen said rape is “because these universities market themselves as the biggest party schools in the country. They encourage drinking. I think it is disgusting and I am so sick hearing that these young men are monsters when really, you are throwing barely 20-somethings into these camp-like university environments, supporting partying, and then your mind is blown when things get out of hand. This is completely different from a woman getting kidnapped and raped as she is walking to her car in a parking lot. That is a rapist. These are not rapists. These are idiot boys and girls having too much to drink and not being aware of their surroundings and having clouded judgement.”
She added, “I know there are young men that take advantage of young women and vice versa, but I know for a fact that Brock is not one of those people. He is respectful and caring, talented, and smart enough to know better.”
You can read the full letter below (click the image to enlarge):
The letter was included in the probation report, according to Stanford professor Michele Dauber, who first posted it on Twitter.
Dauber called it a “fetid pond of victim-blaming rapeyness.”
The probation department recommended a sentence of less than one year in jail for Turner in the report, which was given to the judge to aid in his sentencing. Prosecutors asked for six years in prison.
Turner was eventually sentenced by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky to six months in jail, three years of probation and lifetime sex offender registration. He is expected to be released from jail after serving three months, because of time off for good behavior, according to online records.
The victim impact statement read by the woman raped by Turner can be read at the link below:
2. She Says She Has Been Forced to Defend Her Statement Because of the ‘Overzealous Nature of Social Media’
Rasmussen issued a statement on her band’s Facebook page, which has now been deleted.
You can read her full, now-deleted Facebook statement below:
Two months ago, I was asked to write a character statement for use in the sentencing phase of Brock Turner’s trial. Per the request of the court, I was asked to write this statement in an effort to shed light on Brock’s character as I knew it to be during my childhood, adolescence and young adulthood when I interacted with him as a classmate and friend. I felt confident in my ability to share my straightforward opinion of him and how I knew him. I also felt compelled to share my deep concern over the misuse of alcohol that was a well-established contributor in this case. Beyond sharing my personal experience with Brock, I made an appeal to the judge to consider the effect that alcohol played in this tragedy.
I understand that this appeal has now provided an opportunity for people to misconstrue my ideas into a distortion that suggests I sympathize with sex offenses and those who commit them or that I blame the victim involved. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and I apologize for anything my statement has done to suggest that I don’t feel enormous sympathy for the victim and her suffering.
Perhaps I should have included in my statement the following ideas that explain my perspective on the complexities of what may have happened. As a young female musician who has spent years (since I was in fourth grade) performing as a drummer in live music venues, clubs, and bars with my two sisters, I have had the unique opportunity to observe over 10 years of public American drinking culture and the problems that invariably arise through alcohol misuse. I have watched friends, acquaintances and complete strangers transform before my eyes over the course of sometimes very short periods of time, into people I could barely recognize as a result of alcohol overconsumption. I am currently 20 years old. I have made these observations through sober eyes. I have been repeatedly reminded by my family and coached by police to hold my personal sobriety closely and seriously because of the industry I work in and the risks to my own life that I could face as a young woman playing regularly in venues across the country where alcohol is served.
Additionally, I have grown up and currently reside in a university town that is affected every year by the tragic consequences resulting from undergraduate students’ excessive enthusiasm for binge drinking. Student arrests, violence, injuries, and sexual assaults occur with some regularity, and I have often wondered why this culture continues to thrive seemingly unquestioned and unchecked.
There is nothing more sad than the unnecessary, destructive and enormous toll that
overuse, misuse and abuse of alcohol and drugs play in people’s lives, and I don’t think my effort to point this out in confidence to a judge while commenting on Brock Turner’s character, as the sober person I knew him to be, was an irresponsible or reckless decision. Unfortunately, due to the overzealous nature of social media and the lack of confidence and privacy in which my letter to the judge was held, I am now thrust into the public eye to defend my position on this matter in the court of public opinion. Now, my choices to defer college to write and play music, to finally introduce 10 years of hard work to a national audience while working consistently and intentionally on my own personal and professional integrity, has led to an uproar of judgement and hatred unleashed on me, my band and my family.
I know that Brock Turner was tried and rightfully convicted of sexual assault. I realize that this crime caused enormous pain for the victim. I don’t condone, support, or sympathize with the offense or the offender. I was asked by a court in California to provide a character statement as a standard and necessary part of the sentencing process.
I believe that Brock’s character was seriously affected by the alcohol he consumed, and I felt that the court needed to consider this issue during their sentencing deliberations.
Rasmussen issued a new statement on Wednesday, apologizing:
As I said previously, as part of the sentencing process, I, and at least 39 others wrote character statements to the judge in the case.
Although I was asked to share how I knew him, how long I have known him, his character and personality, time spent with him, activities together, and any other opinion I had on the matter, I was not there that night. I had no right to make any assumptions about the situation.
Most importantly, I did not acknowledge strongly enough the severity of Brock’s crime and the suffering and pain that his victim endured, and for that lack of acknowledgement, I am deeply sorry.
I fully understand the outrage over Brock’s sentencing and my statement. I can only say that I am committed to learning from this mistake. I am 20 years old, and it has never been more clear to me that I still have much to learn.
Her sisters/bandmates have not commented about the issue.
3. The Band Released Its Second Album in March & Has Been Compared to Sleater-Kinney & Black Sabbath
Leslie Rasmussen, a drummer, and her sisters, Elizabeth and Celia, form the Dayton, Ohio-based band Good English, which released its second album in March.
The band has shut down its website, shuttered its Facebook and Instagram pages, and removed its music from Soundcloud and YouTube in the wake of the outrage over Leslie Rasmussen’s letter.
In a press release, the sisters are described as “gritty grunge-pop” and “fierce.” The music is recommended for fans of Sleater-Kinney, Black Sabbath, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Queens of the Stone Age and Black Angels.
The band has played shows across the country, including showcases in Nashville, house shows at South by Southwest, and in New York City, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The band’s second single, “Girl,” was influenced by the concept of a strong and powerful female figure, according to a press release from the band.
“In some instances the lyrics are a warning to the other female to keep her guard up, while in other instances they’re kind of snarky toward one another,” Elizabeth Rasmussen said about the song. “Sometimes the song ends up in a completely different direction than I had thought, but with this one, it went right where I wanted it to…into the mind of a girl!”
Rasmussen says the songs are a mix of punk, pop, classic and grunge rock.
“We’ve been told by many people that we are the genre of music that should have come post 90’s rock,” Emily Rasmussen said.
The sisters grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and said that influenced their music.
“To be taken seriously by Dayton music enthusiasts we had to have a heavier sound, and that ultimately gave us a unique sound for three tiny white girls from the suburbs. For the first time we began writing songs together as a band and really worked with one another to help create the best possible part for each instrument,” Emily Rasmussen said. “Although we individually wrote the parts for our respective instruments, we allowed each other to have a say. Basically, we got all up in each other’s business, like sisters tend to do.”
The band has been playing music since junior high school.
4. The Band Has Had 5 Shows in Brooklyn Cancelled & Was Removed From a Dayton Music Festival
The band has had at least six performances, including five shows in Brooklyn, New York, cancelled because of the statement made by Leslie Rasmussen.
The New York Northside Festival said the band will no longer be playing on June 10 at the Brooklyn event:
Industry City Distillery, another Brooklyn where the band was also scheduled to play, wrote on Facebook, “Yesterday, Good English was removed from the roster. The support of rape culture is not tolerated.”
Another Brooklyn venue, Bar Matchless, wrote on Facebook, “Good English will not be playing Matchless. We do not support victim blaming or rape apologists of any kind.”
The band was also removed from the upcoming Dayton Music, Art & Film Festival.
“We have been informed of the situation regarding a member of Good English and a letter written in support of Brock Turner, a convicted rapist,” the festival wrote on Facebook. “We do not support any such action, and will be removing them from the festival. The safety and comfort of everyone who attends our festival is number one to us. Such actions should not be defended, friend or not. Thank you all for bringing this to our attention.
5. Turner’s Father Has Also Come Under Fire for His Statement Supporting Him
“His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve,” the elder Turner wrote in the letter, which he also read aloud in court. “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”
Brock Turner, his family and his attorney have not commented since his sentencing.