Baumgardner: Teen lesson: You are responsible for your actions


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To read the letter the raped Stanford student read at Brock Turner’s trial, go to:

Perhaps you have been following the outcry after the sentencing of Brock Allen Turner, the Stanford University student who was found guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman at a on-campus party in January 2015.

The story initially made the news when two graduate students riding their bikes across campus witnessed the scene unfolding and came to the woman's aid. The two called police and held Turner at the scene until they arrived.

While the jury found Turner guilty on all counts, the judge sentenced him to six months in jail and stated, "A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others."

At Turner's sentencing, the victim read him a letter describing the assault's impact on her life. If you have not read this letter, it is worth your time to do so. It can be found on the Buzzfeed website.

Adding to the troubling aspect of the crime, Turner has confessed that he was drunk. He has stated that he wants to visit college campuses to talk about the dangers of alcohol and sexual promiscuity, but what he does not want to talk about is sexual assault. In fact, in some instances, Turner is being portrayed as the victim.

How can that be? When did it become acceptable behavior to take advantage of someone who is drunk? When did it become OK not to be accountable and responsible for your actions?

Turner's father wrote a letter to the judge, requesting leniency for his son and explaining that "his son's life has been deeply altered forever by the events of January 17th and 18th now he barely consumes any food and eats only to exist. These verdicts have broken and shattered him and our family in so many ways. His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20-plus years of life."

Probably one of the hardest aspects of parenting is watching your child experience the consequences of poor choices. So often parents run interference for their children starting at an early age and hoping to shield them from the sometimes painful outcomes of their actions.

When their children become teenagers, parents frequently tell them, "You only live once, enjoy it because it won't ever be this way again." What parents sometimes neglect to say is "What you do or do not do in middle school, high school and beyond can impact you for the rest of your life."

Turner is not the victim in this situation. There are two lives and two families that are forever changed because of his behavior.

What happened is awful on all counts. The problem in some situations today is that many people believe they shouldn't be penalized for their actions.

What can parents do to help their child make good choices?

- Teach teens what it means to be respectful of others.

- Make sure they understand the definition of sexual assault. Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.

- Hold your child accountable for their behavior, even at an early age. They will be held accountable in the real world.

- Your teen needs to know that "Everybody else is doing it" does not justify wrong behavior.

It is painful to watch young people struggle to find their way. While they are in your home, diligently teach them how to live responsibly away from your care. Young people have a mind of their own and they will make mistakes. A parent's job is to walk with them, but not shield them from the consequences.

Julie Baumgardner is president and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at [email protected]