When convicted sex offender Brock Turner was released from prison last week after serving only three months of his slap on the wrist six month sentence, the already intense outrage over his case reignited at a new high. It also once again became a convenient cause for misguided bullies to hide behind.
Turner gained international attention in June, when his victim released her heartfelt and powerful impact statement, offering her account of what happened on that night in 2015, and of the "irreversible damage to me and my family" she says he did. He also attracted plenty of notice for how Judge Aaron Perksy decided to punish him for sexually assaulting the unconscious woman behind a school dumpster — six months in county jail because, as Perksy put it, "A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him." He served only half that time, and was then released. As the Los Angeles Times explains, "Early releases are commonly given because of good behavior and because of California's prison realignment." Yet this particular case defies the "common" public expectations. And the anger it provokes has been palpable — if not always well-aimed.
On Tuesday, TMZ reported that Turner's parents' home had been egged. But that juvenile outburst pales to what awaited Turner when he returned to his family home in Ohio. The Guardian reports that this week, "about a dozen" armed protestors descended on the property, carrying signs "calling for the castration and killing of rapists" and vowing to return regularly and unannounced to make him "uncomfortable in his own home." Protestor Daniel Hardin, carrying a M4 assault rifle, told The Guardian, "The message we want to send is… 'If you try this again, we will shoot you.'" Hardin's wife Molly added, "It’s completely legal to kill a rapist in the act of rape." Jaimes Campbell, who helped organize the event, carried an AR-15 rifle and said, "He should not be able to go to jail for three months … and then just live his life normally. We want to let him know that people aren’t just going to forget about what he did." He was photographed holding a sign that read "Shoot your local rapist." And organizer Micah Naziri, who appears to have a thing for showing up in crowds with his gun, carried his .300 Blackout rifle and said, "The number one reason why we had this armed protest was to make a militant feminist statement in favor of self-defense of would-be rape victims." He wielded a sign that said, "If I rape Brock Turner will I only do 3 months." It was a grim echo of the commentary that appeared early on in the story, when an outpouring of wishes for Turner to experience sexual assault inevitably arose. (See also: A certain segment of the responses to the Jared Fogle and Jerry Sandusky cases. Because some people think rape is justice!)
So are these people suggesting that Turner's victim — who was passed out — would have been better off if she'd had an assault rifle? How's that supposed to work? Or should the Swedish students who witnessed the attack and intervened have been carrying guns and shot Turner on the spot? And what are these protestors hoping to achieve now? "We don’t want to give them warning so they can leave and have a nice dinner,” says Hardin.
This kind of hopeful vigilantism, this expectant spoiling for a fight, rarely achieves anything other than making a few extremely eager action heroes in their own minds feel powerful and just. It makes people who are dying to threaten and harass believe that they're being the good guys. But that's not how it works. That Brock Turner is out and walking around free after what he did to that woman is a grotesque miscarriage of justice. It's enraging. But skulking around his family's house — where other people besides Brock Turner apparently live, by the way — with a weapon won't fix that. And escalation of terrible, aggressive behavior is a dangerous and unwinnable game.