“I’m doing this for my daughters,” the man explained.
His oldest, who proudly shared that today was her third birthday, was strapped snugly into her stroller an arm’s length away from her parents, grandmother, and baby sister cradled in her mothers arms.
I met him and his family on a park bench in downtown San Jose while I was canvassing for the recall of Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky. When his mother-in-law signed the petition, she shared the story of her own sexual assault.
Persky shocked this family and thousands like them with his lenient sentence for Brock Turner, the Stanford swimmer convicted of three felony counts of sexual assault. They were not alone in expressing outrage that if one of their black or Latino children had been the perpetrator, the sentencing would have been harsher.
Parents throughout Santa Clara County condemned the racial inequality in Persky’s sentencing for Brock Turner and Raul Ramirez. Persky sentenced Ramirez, a low-income, Salvadoran man convicted of a comparable crime to a three-year prison sentence—a sharp contrast to Brock Turner’s six months in jail.
But this issue didn’t just resonate with parents of color. I met a white man with three sons later that day at the same park. When they saw their dad’s sign, one of the boys looked up at me and said proudly, “Dad’s signing for all of us.”
I was deeply touched by Emily Doe’s victim impact statement. I remember lying on the couch with tears streaming down my face as I read her account of the brutally assault and the nightmarish months that followed. Like many of my peers I have been to many fraternity parties, drank heavily and felt the consequences the next day.
However, unlike Emily Doe, I was lucky. Lucky that I was not targeted and attacked by a sexual predator. As a result of this miscarriage of justice I have devoted my time and passion to the recall of Persky.
While I have encountered some negativity, the majority of voters have been overwhelmingly supportive. Many, like the families at the park, have shared their outrage at the actions of Persky and demanded his removal from office.
It’s awful that Brock Turner chose to assault Emily Doe. And it’s even more awful that because of Persky, his punishment did not fit the crime.
The night I read Emily Doe’s statement, I felt so powerless that I decided to act. I started a MoveOn petition “Justice for the Stanford Rape Victim.” The petition garnered 1,776 signatures, 96 percent of which were gathered in one month.
Comments poured in from victims of sexual assault, police officers, and parents. Like me, they demanded a change- now. When my petition ended, I brought my signature folder to the Registrar of Voters and asked to have it delivered to Persky’s boss. I was told by the clerk that as an elected official, he doesn’t have any one boss. The Santa Clara County community he serves is his boss.
Persky has proven repeatedly that sexual assault, domestic violence and child pornography are acceptable in our community.
By not seriously enforcing these violent crimes, he is privileging the rights of male perpetrators rather than protecting the rights of female victims. If, heaven forbid, I had been Emily Doe, I would not want Persky presiding over my case. If it had been you or your daughter, would you?
Please join me in voting YES to recall Judge Aaron Persky on June 5.
Laura Burns is a Santa Clara resident and medical social worker who received her masters in social welfare at UC Berkeley. She comes from a long line of activists, most notably her grandmother Rachelle Leonard, and currently volunteers for the Recall Persky campaign. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Interested in writing an op-ed? Email pitches to [email protected].