An Open Letter to Brock Allen Turner's Dad

I'm tired of hearing about the sexual assault of vulnerable young women by aggressive young men. It's like a plague. One day the news is reporting about boys keeping score at a prestigious high school; the next it's another rape at a college fraternity party. The stories are all over the map, but I have to believe that the patterns are the same. 

Drugs or alcohol are usually involved. There's a mob mentality that encourages stupid behavior and enables guys to shift blame away from themselves. And, of course, there are boys who have been programmed by porn to think that every girl wants it and that it's a guy's right to take it.

Ex-Stanford swimmer Brock Allen Turner is the most recent rapist to make headlines. (And yes, I'm choosing deliberately to use the word "rapist." A 20 year college athlete with good grades probably doesn't come to mind when we hear that word, but we have to change that. ANYBODY who has sex with someone else without their full, mature, clear-minded consent is a rapist.)

If you haven't been paying attention, you can get a summary of recent events in this article found in The Guardian. Needless to say, it's troubling.

When It Comes to Recognizing the Seriousness of The Crime, Turner's Dad Seems to be Just as Clueless as His Son

At the sentencing, Brock's father Dan submitted a letter to the judge, asking for leniency. Among other things, he described how his son is no longer himself after going through all the difficulties of the sexual assault trial. His life has been altered. He's not happy anymore. He doesn't enjoy cooking like he used to. In the most stunning portion of the letter, he decries that all his son's pain has been "a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action."

It's truly sickening stuff. You can read an excerpt from the letter below:

After reading the words in this appeal, I feel compelled to write a letter to Brock's dad. Here are a few of my thoughts...

Dear Mr. Turner,

You have probably noticed that your letter to the judge is making headlines. Surely you knew this would happen. When you refer to a sexual assault in an official court document as "20 minutes of action," you had to expect that someone would take offense to that.

I'm sorry that the consequences of your son's actions have had a negative affect on his life. Your letter shares some of details. I'm just curious, but have you read the letter that your son's victim read to the court? (A quick observation: her letter was better than yours.) Most people agree that it was one of the most articulate testimonies of the devastating long-term effects that a sexual assault can have on a person's life. And you have to remember, Mr. Turner, that she was the victim. This happened to her. Your son made it happen.  

In your brief appeal to the judge in your son's case, you proved a theory I have had for some time now.

Evidence clearly suggests that many in our kids' generation have developed a twisted, consequence-free view of sex. They have been convinced by the political and cultural leaders of our day that their sexuality is simply a free-form recreational activity rooted in a biological urge. So I'm not surprised when "good" kids like your son do foolish things. I'm horrified, but not surprised. And for every one reported assault, there are many more that go unreported. And for every young man who aggressively takes what is not freely given to him, there are multitudes more who feel like free and available sex is their God-given right. The porn they have watched since age 13 has convinced them of this reality. I am truly scared to death by how an entire generation is being raised to view sex. But back to the theory that the tone of your letter proves for me:

My theory is that many parents today are as just as oblivious as their kids.

These parents have encouraged an extended adolescence where their young adult children should "sow their wild oats" before they settle down and marry. As long as their kids are studying at a respected university, making the right connections for their future, and having success on the ball field or in their career field, nothing else seems to matter. Character, sacrifice, and even fundamental ideas of right and wrong are thrown out the window. Boys will be boys.

Mr. Turner, maybe you raised your son better. Maybe you deliberately trained him to be chivalrous. Perhaps you spoke to him regularly about honoring women. You taught him how to stand up for the weak and how to fight on behalf of innocent people who are unable to fight for themselves. Maybe you did that and he just didn't get the message. But I doubt it.

My guess is that your son grew up in an environment where guys are encouraged to "score." Where sexual experience is a sign of maturity. Where girls are there to meet a guy's needs. That's my guess. Full grown men who describe a rape to a judge using phrases like "20 minutes of action" probably aren't real intentional about training their sons to guard and protect women. But I don't know you, so I can't be sure.

But I know a lot of other dads.

I have seen a whole lot of confident and driven men be incredibly weak in this area. They can manage a business or coach a team and provide leadership in just about every venue they operate. But when it comes to coaching their boys to be real operate with valor and selflessness...these dads are surprisingly passive.

In the culture our boys are being raised, dads have to do better. If we don't, our boys will grow into men without character. They will look good on the outside, but their lives will have no substance to hold them up. If they eventually marry, their wives will depend on them for leadership and for love and our young men will have no clue how to provide it.

Mr. Turner, your son raped a drunk young woman and was given just 6 months in jail for his crime. You argued for probation, suggesting that the sentence was too harsh, but you're just about the only person on the planet who thinks that. Had the assailant been from the inner city and the victim was your 20 year old daughter, I doubt you would be making the same argument.

But your son was a good-looking college kid, so apparently, the judge was lenient.

Can I suggest that spending time in jail is the absolute best thing for your son. I don't know Brock, but I bet he could use a real opportunity to develop humility. He needs to experience real brokenness. He could probably use some time to figure out just how serious all this is. 

Don't let Brock see this as a time where a judge is requiring him to put his life on hold. Instead, I hope he can see it as a chance to fundamentally re-align his life. Sadly, many young men will go their entire lives with a twisted view of sex. They will likely jump from relationship to relationship, looking for a woman who will meet their needs. Someone to make them happy. When, in reality, the key to a fulfilling marriage (and even fulfilling sex) is not rooted in what a man can get...but in what he can give. I hope and pray that Brock has plenty of quiet time to consider this.

As a father, I hope and pray that you will take advantage of this time to teach your son the long lost art of chivalry. I pray he will learn that the best way to save his life is to lose it. (And if you don't know what I'm talking about, I encourage you to learn it yourself.) Then look for teachable moments. Visit him. Write him letters. Encourage him to read the right kinds of books. Help him to find a new understanding of manhood. A new understanding of what life is about.

If you want to know a great place to start, I would suggest reading what the Bible says about the new life that Jesus offers. Read the book of John. Then Romans. Millions have found The Purpose Driven Life to be a great guide to the gospel. The only hope for any of us is to turn from our old way of life, trust in the forgiveness found at the cross, and then look to Jesus to create in us a new heart. God is still a God of second chances. Only He can truly change us.

There is hope for Brock. Just as there is hope for all of us. But something has to change. It has to change in Brock, in you, and in every man in our culture who sees sex as "action." As something to be taken, not given. Every man faces the temptation to think that way, but because our boys are bombarded with that message, I'm afraid for their futures. We have to teach them better.

Mr. Turner, I'm praying for you. And I'm praying for the dads out there who think like you. And just as I pray for you, I'm praying for myself. That I might be found faithful in training my sons to be the kind of men that a vulnerable woman can count on for protection. I pray that Brock one day becomes that kind of man, as well.

-Barrett Johnson

For parents looking to equip their kids to have a healthy view of sexuality and relationships (and even to prepare them for marriage), we recommend our book The Talks. Thousands of families have used it as a guide to help their kids think differently than the world on dozens of critical issues.

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