by Irvin Muchnick
Many readers have been asking me to comment on the rape case of Stanford swimmer Brock Turner. The story has some obvious connections to Concussion Inc.’s coverage of widespread coach sexual abuse. In other ways, it is a different conversation altogether.
There is no doubt, however, that like workplace sexual harassment — which Turner’s was not and which the largely unaccountable practice of coaches using their power to hit on underage girls (and boys) is not — campus rape fits under the general category of serious mistreatment of females. And this mistreatment exists both within institutions claiming a higher purpose and within our justice system.
For me, there is also no doubt that news organs such as CNN, and political leaders such as Vice President Joe Biden, got it right by playing up the eloquent statement by Turner’s victim. Let’s hope it does some good. I have far too much experience with media and public indifference to real stories for me to join the pack in beating the drum for this one.
I highly recommend this Washington Post op-ed piece by Kate Geiselman, a neighbor of the Turner family in Oakwood, Ohio, who gets to the sense of entitled misbehavior behind so many of these incidents. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/06/08/in-brock-turners-hometown-were-raising-kids-who-are-never-told-no/.
I do not agree with the lynch mob now out to impeach Judge Aaron Persky. Turner’s sentence is too light, I agree, but the focus going forward should be on institutions — our elite universities and organizations like USA Swimming — that are never held accountable for enabling rape culture, while everyone goes ineffectually wild over this or that individual case.
USA Swimming, of course, is the obvious connection of the Turner situation to our coverage. But less obviously, Turner just happens to be a collegiate-class swimmer. The act itself seemed to involve cultural, not direct organizational, power imbalances.
And naturally USA Swimming — which has harbored the worst collection of job-shuttling, covered-up sexual abusers the world over, with the exception of the Catholic Church — has used this public relations opportunity to jump in from the grandstands with a statement assuring the public that Brock Turner would never, ever, ever again be allowed to be a member. Just in case any of us wondered if they were good guys.
Hall of Fame swimmer David Berkoff is an on-again, off-again critic of the sport’s administration of abuse; whether the switch is on or off depends on whether he’s speaking from the outside, as another voice spitting in the wind, or from the inside, as a USA Swimming board member with an Olympic blazer and perks. Currently on the outside looking in, he wrote a strong piece for the site SwimSwam recalling his efforts, while on the board in 2012, to close the group’s loophole for dealing with allegations against “former” members or swimmers or coaches who did not have technical membership status at the precise moment when controversial incidents occurred. See https://swimswam.com/olympian-david-berkoff-believes-usa-swimming-should-ban-brock-turner/.