Days after a sexual assault victim wrote and then read a powerful letter to her Stanford University attacker, the two graduate students who intervened during the assault said they were moved by her words.
Carl-Fredrik Arndt and Peter Jonsson spoke out Tuesday about the night in January 2015 that former Stanford varsity swimmer Brock Allen Turner sexually assaulted a 23-year-old student, known in local newspapers by the pseudonym “Emily Doe.”
The two men told police they were riding their bikes on Jan. 18, 2015, near the Kappa Alpha fraternity house when they saw Turner, now 20, on top of an unconscious woman behind a dumpster on campus.
“We can see that she isn’t moving at all but he is moving a lot. So we stop and think that there is something strange going on,” Arndt told the news outlet Expressen in Swedish, an interview that was first translated by BuzzFeed News.
He added: “Peter walks over and asks what he is doing and I am following him. When he stand up we see that she still isn’t moving, even the slightest, so we approach and ask something like: ‘What the hell are you doing?'”
Arndt said Turner started to run and Jonsson went after him.
The two men then pinned Turner down and held him until authorities arrived, Arndt said.
Turner was charged and found guilty of assault with the intent to commit rape, sexual penetration with a foreign object of an intoxicated person and sexual penetration with a foreign object of an unconscious person.
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner late last week to six months in county jail and three years of probation, a decision that drew fury from the victim — and from many others.
It was the heart-wrenching message that Turner’s victim delivered in the packed courtroom in Palo Alto, Calif., that brought renewed attention to the controversial case.
“You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today,” she read in court from a victim impact statement, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. “The damage is done, no one can undo it.
“And now we both have a choice. We can let this destroy us, I can remain angry and hurt and you can be in denial, or we can face it head on, I accept the pain, you accept the punishment, and we move on.”
Then, the woman talked about the two men who helped stop Turner’s attack.
“Two guys on bikes noticed I wasn’t moving in the dark and had to tackle you,” she wrote in a 12-page letter, which was released by Santa Clara County.
You ran because you said you felt scared. I argue that you were scared because you’d be caught, not because you were scared of two terrifying Swedish grad students. The idea that you thought you were being attacked out of the blue was ludicrous. That it had nothing to do with you being on top my unconscious body. You were caught red handed, with no explanation. When they tackled you why didn’t say, “Stop! Everything’s okay, go ask her, she’s right over there, she’ll tell you.” I mean you had just asked for my consent, right? I was awake, right? When the policeman arrived and interviewed the evil Swede who tackled you, he was crying so hard he couldn’t speak because of what he’d seen. Also, if you really did think they were dangerous, you just abandoned a half-naked girl to run and save yourself. No matter which way you frame it, it doesn’t make sense.
Your attorney has repeatedly pointed out, well we don’t know exactly when she became unconscious. And you’re right, maybe I was still fluttering my eyes and wasn’t completely limp yet, fine. His guilt did not depend on him knowing the exact second that I became unconscious, that is never what this was about. I was slurring, too drunk to consent way before I was on the ground. I should have never been touched in the first place. Brock stated, “At no time did I see that she was not responding. If at any time I thought she was not responding, I would have stopped immediately.” Here’s the thing; if your plan was to stop only when I was literally unresponsive, then you still do not understand. You didn’t even stop when I was unconscious anyway! Someone else stopped you. Two guys on bikes noticed I wasn’t moving in the dark and had to tackle you. How did you not notice while on top of me?
At the time, Arndt was earning his Ph.D. in computational and mathematical engineering at Stanford University, according to his LinkedIn profile. It states that he was serving as a teaching assistant in math and engineering.
Jonsson, who was studying management science and engineering, said Tuesday on Facebook that everyone should read the victim’s letter.
“Thanks to everyone, friends and strangers, for all the encouragement and support over the last days and months,” he wrote. “At this point I will not publicly comment on the process or the outcome of the trial. However, I do ask all of you to spare a few minutes and read this letter written by the Victim.
“To me it is unique in its form and comes as close as you can possibly get to putting words on an experience that words cannot describe.”
Arndt told Expressen the two men have not formally met the victim but have read her words.
“Of course there is a lot of joyfulness in the fact we were able to help her,” he said in Swedish.
Jonsson declined comment to The Washington Post and Arndt did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In her letter, the victim thanked the two strangers — the “heroes” — who stepped in to help.
“Most importantly, thank you to the two men who saved me, who I have yet to meet,” she wrote in her letter to Turner. “I sleep with two bicycles that I drew taped above my bed to remind myself there are heroes in this story. That we are looking out for one another. To have known all of these people, to have felt their protection and love, is something I will never forget.”
This story has been updated.