Indie Drummer Defends Her Statement in Support of Stanford Rape Trial Defendant Brock Turner
After the drummer for Ohio band Good English wrote a letter in support of her childhood friend Brock Turner -- an ex-Stanford swimmer found sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster last year -- the backlash was swift and included a string of lost gigs and a stream of vitriol on social media.
The outrage over a California judge's sentencing of Brock -- who was given what many consider a too-light sentence of six months in prison -- has spread beyond the Brock family and Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky to include Good English's Leslie Rasmussen.
In a statement released Tuesday, the drummer in the Dayton-based sibling trio and childhood friend of Turner's said she was asked to write a character letter in support of Turner two months ago. Brock was accused of rape and convicted last week of three felony counts of sexual assault: assault with the intent to commit rape of an unconscious person; sexual penetration of an unconscious person; and sexual penetration of an intoxicated person.
In the support letter she said, "Brock is not a monster. He is the further thing from anything like that, and I have known him much longer than the people involved in this 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."
That letter (the context of which was not initially made clear) led to New York's Northside Festival canceling two of the band's showcases this week, as well as the loss of three other gigs in the city. It came in the wake of the posting of the heart-wrenching 7,244-word statement the victim read in court in which she said, "Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today."
Due to recent information brought to our attention, Good English is no longer playing Northside Festival.— Northside Festival (@NorthsideFest) June 7, 2016
Rasmussen's leaked court document also resulted in a rain of angry tweets directed at the drummer.
I am glad that the concert/club venues have banned Good English + Leslie Rasmussen from touring at shows for her choice of words. Good!— SpookyCassXO (@CassCalderon) June 8, 2016
I hope Leslie Rasmussen of Good English understands her #BrockTurner support letter spoke of rape w/out factoring how much victim suffered.— Lexistential (@lexistential) June 8, 2016
While Billboard has not been able to reach the band for comment after their Facebook, Bandcamp and Twitter pages were seemingly taken down, Rasmussen issued a statement on Tuesday explaining the reasoning behind her comments in the support letter, in which she also wrote, "I am not blaming her directly for this, because that isn’t right. But 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."
"Two months ago, I was asked to write a character statement for use in the sentencing phase of Brock Turner’s trial," she wrote in the statement posted in full on Brooklyn Vegan. "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."
Rasmussen said the initial statement should have included additional contexts to explain her perspective on the "complexities of what may have happened" in the incident, in which the assault on the 23-year-old woman was stopped by two graduate students who witnessed Turner having sex with the unconscious victim.
"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," Rasmussen wrote. "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 over-consumption. 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."
She continued, writing that growing up in a college town affected by the "tragic consequences resulting from undergraduate students’ excessive enthusiasm for binge drinking," she has wondered why a binge drinking culture that results in student arrests, violence, injuries, and sexual assaults 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," she said. "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."
Rasmussen acknowledged that Turner was tried and rightfully convicted of sexual assault and that his crime caused "enormous pain" for the victim. "I don’t condone, support, or sympathize with the offense or the offender," she said of Brock, who could be released after just three months behind bars. "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."