Sunday’s graduation ceremony at Stanford looked a little different this year as students, carrying signs that read “Rape is Rape” and “Stanford Protects Rapists,” took a stand against rape culture in the wake of Brock Turner’s sexual assault case.
Turner, a former student who was convicted of raping an unconscious victim behind a dumpster in 2015, will only serve three months of his six month sentence. While Turner’s case has rocked the prestigious campus, the number of sexual assaults on college campuses – many of which go unreported and unpunished due to the veracity of rape culture in society – also served as motivation for the students and a women’s rights advocacy group at the school to protest the commencement.
In an effort to remove Judge Aaron Persky, the man responsible for Turner’s lenient sentence, the women’s group UltraViolet submitted more than 800,000 signatures to the Commission on Judicial Performance’s San Francisco offices, Fox reports.
“Stanford students are justifiably outraged over a so-called justice system that protects privileged white rapists over the survivors of their crimes,” said Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet. “With one in four women sexually assaulted while in college, we need judges that take rape seriously, and that’s why Judge Persky should be removed from the bench.”
Sunday’s event began with an address from university president John Hennessy, who called for a moment of silence for survivors of sexual assault and the victims of what has become the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. – the Pulse nightclub massacre – AFP reports.
“As events on our own campus and around the country remind us, violence in all forms has become a scourge on our society,” he said.
Speaking to the students, filmmaker Ken Burns also urged the crowd to actively change rape culture.
“I am the father of four daughters,” he said, addressing the students. “If someone tells you they have been sexually assaulted, take it effing seriously and listen to them,” he added to sustained applause.
Turner, 20, will be released from a Santa Clara County jail in September. Statistics show that one in three students at Stanford will be victims of sexual assault by the time they finish college.