In the wake of the court ruling which saw convicted rapist Brock Turner slapped with a six-month prison sentence, a petition has sprung up calling for the judge behind the verdict to step down.
After twenty-year-old Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner was spared the maximum 14-year jail sentence for the rape of an unconscious woman due to what Judge Aaron Persky deemed “unusual circumstances,” many have voiced their frustration with what they see as an unfairly lenient judgement.
One of them is Maria Ruiz, the Miami nurse who created a petition which has acquired over a million signatures. When I reached out to her on Twitter, Ruiz informed me that she was inspired to act by the victim’s moving twelve-page impact statement, which has made global headlines and been read millions of times.
Her goal with the petition is to “apply enough pressure to have the assembly of California begin impeachment hearings for the judge on the basis of bias towards a certain class.”
After the Turner verdict was delivered, more than ten jurors serving under Persky in a separate case walked out of the courtroom, citing their frustration over the injustice of Turner’s sentence. When I mentioned this, Ruiz called it a “minor social justice victory,” one indicating widespread public outrage.
Not only did Judge Persky graduate from the same prestigious university as Brock Turner, but he was involved in the competitive athletics scene, coaching a lacrosse team. Consequently, he’s been branded a rape apologist, an example of institutionalized classism and racism, and even copped death threats.
Since the petition went live, Ruiz told me she’s had “many” friends confide in her about their own sexual assault stories, on and off campus. Indeed, statistics show that 1 in 6 women will experience sexual assault in their lifetime, with Stanford University reporting an incident roughly every two weeks.
On reaching over a million signatures, she said, “I certainly did not expect this level of success at all. I'm shocked and amazed. My faith in humanity has been restored.”
In the meantime, she’s waiting to hear back from the White House, who are required to respond to a separate petition she started in an effort to have Judge Persky stripped of his status, and which reached 100,000 signatures in 36 hours.
In her words, “If we don’t stand up for each other, who will?”