The Stanford Rape Judge: Aaron Persky

I met Aaron Persky (here’s the link to today’s NY Times article on Persky) in the fall of 1980 when we were both freshmen at Stanford together. Aaron was the roommate of one of my best friends from Ames, Iowa, Eric Wolfe. (Eric and I were roommates our junior and senior year in our fraternity). I hung out with Aaron a lot our freshmen year, but I haven’t stayed in touch with him since then.

Aaron Persky was the judge in the recent Stanford rape case.  In case you haven’t been following it, a Stanford student (Brock Turner), a star on the swim team, raped a non-Stanford student who was drunk and unconscious. Turner was also drunk at the time. Judge Persky gave Turner a light sentence, 6 months. He could likely get off with good behavior at 3 months.

In my opinion (I’m not a lawyer, nor a specialist in sentencing for rape cases, like Judge Persky), I think Turner should have been given a more severe punishment. I discuss the problems associated with prosecuting rape cases in my most recent book (Prostitutes and Polygamists: A Look at Love, Old Testament Style). Our culture has a tendency to blame the victim. Many perpetrators of rape get off scot-free, so the fact that Turner is sentenced at all is a good thing, not ideal, but a step in the right direction.

Judge Persky is now being threatened, and trolls are hoping that his children get raped. (God, help us.) I have no problem with the petition that calls for his removal. But before I would sign my name to that list I would want to learn a lot more about rape law and rape sentencing in this country, and more about Persky’s record since he’s been a judge.

According to the NY Times article, Persky has been involved in leadership positions for several organizations that advocate for women and victims, including a support network for battered women, which doesn’t surprise me given what I know of Aaron.  It sounds like Persky is exactly the sort of person you would want deciding cases about rape and violence against women.

What do you think?  

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2 comments

  1. I remember our classmate, Aaron. He seemed like a great guy. I wouldn’t sign any petition unless I basically read all the transcript and walked in Aaron’s shoes. And even then, I wasn’t there to listen to the witnesses.

    And as the father of two daughters, I am predisposed to bias against the alleged (or convicted) male rapists.

    Although not on point, the book Missoula by Jon Krakauer provides some interesting insight on the issue as well.

    1. Michael, thanks for engaging. Yes, I’ve heard of Krakauer’s book and should read it. I agree. As the number of rape convictions go up, the number of rape occurrences should go down. Although, as we found out with drugs, stiffer sentences aren’t a very effective deterrent. The key is to get a conviction, and even a short sentence works as a deterrent.

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