A co-author of a criminal justice textbook that included convicted sexual assailant Brock Turner’s photo next to the section titled “Rape” is standing by their decision.
Last week, a student at Washington State University posted a photo of the book page on Facebook, and it has since been shared over 100,000 times.
Callie Rennison, a University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs professor and co-author of “Introduction to Criminal Justice: Systems, Diversity and Change,” said that the vast majority of reaction she’s received has been positive. However, critics have said that even though Turner’s crimes may fit the FBI definition of rape, he was not convicted of rape as defined by California law—instead he was convicted of sexual assault.
Currently, the federal definition states that if there’s penetration “with any object, any body part, that’s not consensual, then that’s rape,” Rennison said. “Brock Turner was convicted of a penetration offense and under these definitions that’s rape.”
Rennison also points out that critics may not have read the entire section of the book and missed some key context.
“That particular section is about how definitions change over time,” Rennison said.
In fact, California did alter their definition of rape, in part due to Turner's case.
She says they will still add even more context in upcoming editions of the book, a fact the publisher confirmed, as well.
She contends that the reason Turner’s image was used in the first place was to keep the curriculum current and thus relatable to students in 2017.
“This is who students know and students talk about,” she said. “Contemporary references are a must. Looking at older books students aren’t engaged. They don’t think it applies to them in their world.”
She also hopes it starts a larger conversation about punishment. Turner’s six-month sentence—of which he served three months—was widely covered in the media.
“This allows us to have the discussion about what is the time most people serve for this, and students are shocked to learn that often it's nothing.”
Rennison said she and her co-author, Mary Dodge, are the first all-female team of authors to pen a criminal justice textbook.
Turner’s attorney, Mike Armstrong, declined to comment for the story, and attempts to reach Turner’s parents were unsuccessful.