In 2016, Brock Turner sexually assaulted Chanel Miller as she lay unconscious on a public walkway at Stanford University, where Turner was a student. Based in part on Turner’s clean record and on the recommendation of the probation department, Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to six months incarceration in jail, three years probation, and a lifetime on the sex offender registry. The short period of incarceration, at a time when many believed those with power did not take campus sexual assault seriously, catapulted the case into the national spotlight. Activists demanded that voters recall Judge Persky. In 2018, they did just that, making Judge Persky the first California judge to be recalled in over 80 years.
Revisiting those events, this film invites the viewer to reflect upon whether the recall achieved its goal of advancing justice for survivors of sexual violence. The film forces us to grapple with the unintended consequences of our responses to individual cases like Turner’s, and asks whether our push for punishment in one case may cause harm to others.
The guide below poses discussion questions for the film. We also offer some ideas and responses to guide discussion. At the end, we offer suggestions for further thought and discussion about our criminal legal system and the purposes it serves, and for how to engage with your elected officials to push for better support for survivors.
The questions here progress as the film does, all building to one critical question: what should justice look like? This question is obviously extremely difficult to answer, and people grapple with it every day. The prompts below, along with the film, are designed to push us to both explore different ways that we can promote healing and accountability, and also to examine how our current system fails to meet either of these ends.