The Brock Turner rape sentence fiasco has revealed, or confirmed, a depth of repugnance uncommon even in typical rape cases. I know I don't need to go back over the offense, the leniency of the punishment, the contemptible antimorality of the statements made by the judge and the father, or the harrowingly frank, frankly heroic letter that was written and read aloud in court by the woman who was forced to endure the whole disgusting tribulation. But a new wrinkle was added to the story yesterday when Brooklyn Vegan reported that the band Good English got dropped from the upcoming Northside Festival in Brooklyn because their drummer, Leslie Rasmussen was discovered to have written a letter in defense of Turner's character for the judge's consideration.
On Monday, NY Magazine blog The Cut obtained and published the letter, which was apparently meant to be a confidential court document. The key section is below:
Brock is not a monster. He is the furthest thing from anything like that, and I have known him much longer than the people involved in his 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.
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.
It is because these universities market themselves as the biggest party schools in the country. They encourage drinking. I think it is disgusting and I am so sick of hearing that these young men are monsters when really, you are throwing barely 20-somethings into these camp-like university environments, supporting partying, and then your mind is blown when things get out of hand.
This is completely different from a woman getting kidnapped and raped as she is walking to her car in a parking lot. This is a rapist. These are not rapists. These are idiot boys and girls having too much to drink and not being aware of their surroundings and having clouded judgement. I’m not saying that is every case because I know there are young men that take advantage of young women and vice versa, but I know for a fact that Brock is not one of these people. He is respectful and caring, talented and smart enough to know better.
Attached is a photo of Brock I took in high school. He has always had that huge, loving smile on his face. The caption is even ‘d’awwww’ because he was always the sweetest to everyone.
I appreciate you taking your time to hear about my past with Brock and my opinion on the matter, and I hope you consider what I’ve said when looking into the sentencing. I would not be writing this letter if I had any doubt in my mind that he is innocent.
Thank you again,
It will surprise no one that a massive amount of opprobrium has been heaped upon Rasmussen since this letter came out—both for its general expression of sympathy for Turner, but the impossible-to-miss language that suggests 1) that the woman he raped is actually more culpable than he is because she was blackout drunk, and decided to press charges; 2) that the rape he committed (even though "he is innocent") was really more about the collegiate culture that encourages alcohol consumption than about the choice he made to rape an unconscious person; and 3) that line about political correctness and how "rape on campuses isn’t always because people are rapists."
It's hard to imagine a letter more effectively written to get people to shame you on the internet. But the plot thickened when it was discovered that Rasmussen is in a rock band called Good English. It's a trio. The other two members are her sisters. She plays drums. Yesterday, when this news came out, they were dropped from the bill of the Northside Festival in Brooklyn, a massive, weeklong, multi-venue extravaganza that includes 400+ artists, from Brian Wilson to Seattle's own Childbirth.
Due to recent information brought to our attention, Good English is no longer playing Northside Festival.— Northside Festival (@NorthsideFest) June 7, 2016
The NY Daily News reported that Good English were also dropped from the bill of the Dayton Music Art & Film Festival near their hometown of Oakwood, OH, and that the Rumba Cafe in Columbus, Ohio had canceled their booking.
Good English's publicist, Behind the Curtains Media (which is hosting one of the Northside shows the band got dropped from, but continues to represent them) issued a press release yesterday that included a letter from Rasmussen to clarify "her beliefs and comments" which were, the PR said, "taken out of context by many."
Rasmussen's letter in full:
"Two months ago, I was asked to write a character statement for use in the sentencing phase of Brock Turner’s trial. 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.
Perhaps I should have included in my statement the following ideas that explain my perspective on the complexities of what may have happened. 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. 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.
Additionally, I have grown up and currently reside in a university town that is affected every year by the tragic consequences resulting from undergraduate students’ excessive enthusiasm for binge drinking. Student arrests, violence, injuries, and sexual assaults occur with some regularity, and I have often wondered why this culture 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. 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.
I know that Brock Turner was tried and rightfully convicted of sexual assault. I realize that this crime caused enormous pain for the victim. I don’t condone, support, or sympathize with the offense or the offender. 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."
The press release ends with the statement "Good English has since dropped upcoming shows, including performances at Northside Festival in Brooklyn, NY later this week."
This is likely wishful language, since it's fairly clear that the dropping was not the band's choice to make. (Also, having now read two of Rasmussen's letters, I think they might want to consider a name change.) But you can hardly blame her. Good English is well and truly fucked, at least for the time being. I had never heard of the band before this, and as of yesterday evening, their last record had fewer than 1,000 listens on Spotify (I am now one of them and I hope it's not piling on to say I didn't care for it much; it's that sort of muscular strain of '90s-style alternative rock—like K's Choice, maybe?). So maybe they were doomed before any of this news came out.
The speed at which internet time moves may make it possible for Good English to come back to wherever they were on Sunday—probably looking forward to playing the big festival in Brooklyn with so many cool bands, hoping they might finally get noticed, might rise out of the anonymous rock band million, maybe get written about in Brooklyn Vegan or Pitchfork? Ugh.
This may be an appropriate price to pay for having written such a stupid letter (however well-intentioned it may have been), and for following it up with such an insufficient, disingenuous "clarification." I bet Rasmussen's sisters/bandmates don't think so.