Purdy, Persky -- what's the difference?
13 Reasons Why covers tough topics, from bullying to sexual assault to teen suicide. The events in the show closely mirror many real-life events -- including several not-so-subtle nods to Brock Turner, a former swimmer who was caught by two graduate students raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster on the Stanford campus.
And, of course, Judge Aaron Persky's ridiculously lenient sentence. Despite a prosecutor's belief that Turner should spend six years in prison, Persky deemed he would only serve six months in jail (in the end, Turner only served three months, before being released on probation).
I found 13 Reasons Why to be kind of a boring waste of time, and I wished I could have watched it on 1.5x speed (it wasn't offensively bad, like many Netflix originals, but I wouldn't recommend watching anything but Hannah's graphic rape scene, and her subsequent conversation with the school counselor, because there's a valuable lesson about rape culture there).
But I did appreciate the Brock Turner and Judge Persky parallels.
For example, the judge who served the total major miscarriage of justice in 13 Reasons Why was named Judge Purdy.
There were some fun little visuals, too, including having rapist Bryce Walker exit the locker room next to a teammate named Turner.
Both rapists -- Walker and Turner -- were athletes. Both raped unconscious women. Both had compelling and damning evidence against them. In Walker's case, there was a witness, a recorded confession, and the witness account. In Turner's case, two witnesses actually stopped the rape and called the police. (They had a hard time talking to the police immediately, because what they'd caught Turner doing was so disgusting they couldn't stop crying.)
Nevertheless, both rapists got off with a slap on the wrist -- and for similar reasons. In a long-winded over-justification of why he was letting Brock Turner off with a minimal punishment, Judge Persky said,
But the – I – I think you have to take the whole picture in terms of what impact imprisonment has on a specific individual’s life. And the impact statements that have been – or the, really, character letters that have been submitted do show a huge collateral consequence for Mr. Turner based on the conviction.
Which is basically exactly the same justification Judge Purdy used in 13 Reasons Why. Durrrr... he lost his scholarship offers! Hasn't he suffered enough?!
Also worth mentioning are the powerful victim statements in both the show and the Brock Turner case. Jane Doe -- which both began with, "Your Honor, if it is all right, for the majority of this statement I would like to address the defendant directly."
You can read Jane Doe's full statement on Buzzfeed.
While she may have raised awareness about an important issue, justice was hardly served.
And now residents are working to get Persky recalled.
I... don't know how I feel about it.
On the one hand, he is a horrible person who doesn't deserve to be a judge. He made a horrible decision, and should be held accountable. Rich, white athletes who rape unconscious women shouldn't get three months in a county jail.
On the other... rulings should be based on facts and evidence and legal stuff, not public and media pressure.
Rulings like Persky's are why I find it laughable that Christina Hoff Sommers, the "factual feminist," claims there is "no such thing as rape culture," even though there is so much else she stands for that resonates with me. (See also: every last page of One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture is Eroding Self-Reliance.)
Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why may not have been the shining beacon of hope that viewers hoped it would be...
But maybe with high-profile cases like the Stanford rape case and powerful victim statements like Jane Doe's -- and, maybe even with the messaging from 13 Reasons Why? -- positive changes will happen? Like, soon?
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Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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