As support continues to pour in for the victim in the Stanford University sexual assault case, an Ohio musician is facing widespread backlash and concert cancelations after she stood up for the convicted attacker, Brock Turner.
Leslie Rasmussen, drummer for the Ohio-based band Good English, wrote a letter to the judge who was sentencing her friend Turner, blaming the incident on party-school environments at campuses across the country.
“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 wrote in a letter to Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, which was obtained by New York Magazine. “It 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 of 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.”
Persky sentenced Turner last week to six months in county jail and three years of probation. The former Stanford student was also ordered to register as a sex offender. The sentence has drawn outrage — much of it aimed at the judge, who is now facing a recall effort.
But Rasmussen’s words were also swept up in the social media outcry from many who were already upset by similar statements from Turner’s family members and friends — namely, one from the 20-year-old’s father, who argued that prison time would be “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”
Some have urged fans and concert bookers to stop supporting Rasmussen’s band. Indeed, there have been numerous Good English concert cancelations in recent days, including scheduled appearances at the Dayton Music Art & Film Festival and New York’s Northside 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,” representatives for the Dayton Music Art & Film Festival wrote on Facebook. (Turner was not convicted of rape. He was convicted of sexually assaulting an intoxicated and unconscious woman behind a dumpster at Stanford.)
“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.”
The band’s publicity firm, Behind The Curtains Media, also cut ties with the musicians.
“Behind the Curtains Media previously provided publicity for the band and music of Good English, not the individual members,” according to a statement from the PR company. “Behind the Curtains Media, its affiliates and artists do not support or endorse the former client, Good English, or the statements made by individual members and therefore we have severed ties in all capacities. All further inquiries should be directed at the band and members themselves.”
In her letter, Rasmussen told the judge that she was upset by how Turner was portrayed.
“Brock is not a monster,” she wrote to Persky. “He is the furthest thing from anything like that, and I have known him much longer than the people involved in his case. 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. I am not blaming her directly for this, because that isn’t right.”
Amid the criticism, a statement attributed to Rasmussen appeared on Good English’s Facebook page. In it, she said that people had started 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.”
On Wednesday, Rasmussen also posted an apology on her personal Facebook page.
“I am deeply sorry,” she wrote. “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.”
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.