The Judge Said

By Kathy Scarbrough


Judges often fail to hold men accountable for rape, even when the evidence is overwhelming. We just saw it play out one more time as Judge Aaron Persky let convicted felony rapist Brock Turner, walk out of court with a mere 6 months in the county jail. Turner will probably be released in 3 months if he behaves well.

The evidence against the white upper-middle class 20-year old and former Stanford University swimmer wasn’t the point of contention. The sentence was. Unlike in many rape cases, there were witnesses who intervened at the time of the crime and testified in court, so Turner was convicted. 

We’ve been fighting against sexist judges for a very long time! Judge Persky doesn’t represent anything new, or demonstrate any heightened awareness of the politics of rape convictions. In 1977 a decision by one Judge Simonson of Madison, Wisconsin, relieved some young men of responsibility for a sex crime they committed. The story was quickly picked up by the national news. Singer/songwriter Malvina Reynolds wrote a biting song called “The Judge Said” in response to his decision and contributed to a recall campaign that eventually removed Simonson from the bench.

Here’s a recording of Malvina Reynolds singing “The Judge Said” and a link to the music transcription and a news clipping on the case printed in the topical song magazine, BROADSIDE (see pages 8 and 10 in the pdf).


The Judge Said
Words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1977 Schroder Music Company

The judge said “Screw ’em!
Boys, you’re only human.
They brought it on themselves
By being born a woman.
Like a mountain’s there to climb
And food’s there to be eaten,
Woman’s there to rape,
To be shoved around and beaten.”

The judge took his position,
The judge he wouldn’t budge,
So we’ve got out this petition,
And we’re going to screw the judge.

Now if you beat a horse or dog
Or violate a bank,
Simonson will haul you in
And throw you in the clink.
But violate a woman,
Your equal and your peer,
The judge will slap you on the wrist
And lay the blame on her.


To draw a true conclusion
From what Simonson has said,
Woman has to live in fear
And cover up her head.
She has to dress in purdah
And lock herself in cages,
And this kinky judge in Madison
Is from the Middle Ages.

Final Chorus:

The judge took his position,
The judge he wouldn’t budge,
So we’ve got out this petition,
And we’re going to dump the judge.


Just a few years after Simonson lost his job, another Wisconsin judge blamed a five-year-old for her own rape by her mother’s 24-year-old boyfriend, saying the child was a “sexually promiscuous young lady.” He sentenced the man to 60 days, allegedly not for the rape but for lying to him. Another uproar, another recall effort—but this time Judge Reinecke won his recall election.


*  *  *

In 2016 we are dealing with the exact same problem. Judge Persky empathized with the rapist Brock Turner, saying, “a prison term could have a severe impact on him.”  

What about the “impact” on Turner’s victim? On this issue the judge is silent.

Judge Persky ignored the statutory minimum of two years in prison and he ignored prosecutors’ recommendation of a six-year prison term when sentencing Turner. The light sentence supports the notion that men are “entitled” to sex, and trivializes the seriousness of rape offenses. Some who found this an egregious decision are leading a recall effort to get Judge Persky removed from the bench. Stanford Law professor Michele Landis has set up a website to let the voters of Santa Clara County decide on the judge’s fitness for office.

At Stanford’s commencement this spring, students brought signs and wore decorated graduation caps to honor rape survivors. Both the President and the Keynote speaker made reference to the crime without mentioning the name of Brock Allen Turner. A plane chartered by feminist group UltraViolet flew a banner across the sky during commencement that read “Protect Survivors. Not Rapists. #PerskyMustGo.” (

On June 14th, National Public Radio reported that Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen filed a peremptory challenge against Judge Persky preventing him from deciding another sexual assault case. In this new case, a former Kaiser Permanente male surgical nurse is alleged to have sexually assaulted an anesthetized female patient. District Attorney Rosen said his decision to remove Persky was “a rare and carefully considered step.” He also left open the possibility that he would seek to disqualify the judge in future cases.

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4 comments for “The Judge Said

  1. Dogtowner
    June 28, 2016 at 11:16 am

    A defense attorney on television talked about the JUROR who wrote a letter to Persky protesting the sentence he handed down. She said that in all her years as an attorney (she was not young) she had never heard of a juror writing to a judge. The jurors were apparently outraged after finding Turner guilty on three felony counts.

    is anyone aware of what is happening with Angela Davis? I heard her on the radio talking about how no one should be in prison. Did I mishear? And then we have Counterpunch publishing articles on ending the sex offender registry. What is going on with the so-called left?!?!?!?!?!?

    You can find the Counterpunch article referenced above here

  2. Dogtowner
    July 8, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    If anyone does read these comments, I will note that one thing Judith Levine says in her Counterpunch article (at least the latest one about ending sex offender registries; I’ve not read her previous articles on the same topic) does not seem to hold up in reality. According to Levine, sex offenders rarely re-offend. I live in Maine, a low-population state, and most crime is covered on the television news. This morning I heard about a man who is being charged with two sexual assaults; he is a registered sex offender with previous crimes committed in 1996, 2000, 2004. This reportage is a frequent occurrence: Many of the men being charged with a current sex crime have been convicted of past sex crimes. I strongly doubt that Maine is an anomaly, the only place where registered sex offenders re-offend.

    • ChildPsych101
      October 18, 2020 at 5:03 am

      A 40 year old woman in a wheelchair transfers to a regular seat in an airplane, her chair wheeled away to make room in the aisle. Once in the air, a terrorist grabs her child from the next seat motioning to the paraplegic to walk to the front of the plane and relay his demands. Stunned, she tries to explain, but the disability causing her paraplegia also affects her speech and the aphasic response is taken as resistance by the Terrorist who shoots.

      Stay with me here on this.
      I read the counterpunch article as well as the article that IT referenced @The Marshall Project.

      To both previous commenters: BOTH articles advocate for removing the registry for JUVENILE offenders. Specifically discussed is a boy who @age 13 committed 4 offenses, which included fondling, no actual rape or forced penetration and in all cases he ran away immediately after the victim said No and tried to push him off or fight back. He was caught after the last and immediately confessed to the other 3.

      The recidivism rate discussed in the 2nd comment above also lacks accuracy. Here is a direct quote w/accurate data:
      “…expert on juvenile delinquency and a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin, looked at studies dating back to 1943 and found that 4.6 percent of about 30,000 juveniles committed another sex offense within five years.Compare that to the average recidivism rate for adults, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics: 68 percent over three years.”

      Worth repeating:
      4.6% over 5 years for juveniles vs
      68% over 3 years for adults.

      So now did either article actually have a valid point? Neither (the ‘counterpunch’ article nor its ref source) argued for leniency against rapists; neither suggested judges should victim blame. Both did discuss the registry, but only as it relates to children.

      Most people, and society as a whole, look at young, cute children and immediately recognize they are not in always in control of their actions. If a 5 year old throws a tantrum in a store and hits their mom, they aren’t charged with assault or disorderly conduct. If in the midst of a diaper change, a child runs naked before being wrestled giggling into clean clothes, they wouldn’t be charged with public indecency. The very idea in either case is absurd; a child is no more responsible for their behavior than the paraplegic is for failing to walk.

      Knowledge and experience doesn’t change things for a child. How many parents have said “how many times do I have to tell you?” A child might understand something is wrong or even that it will harm them, but their brain literally lacks the ability to control their actions.

      This is not much different than a disability. In the example earlier, someone in a wheelchair was told they must walk or their loved one would be killed, but despite their knowledge of the dire consequences they simply weren’t able to get out of that chair. As people, we would never blame that person. We wouldn’t haul them to jail or shame them publicly. And yet for years our society operated a Juvenile Death Penalty and we continue to this day to incarcerate and commit children for acting with the brain of a child, (sometimes for life, (see cases ref @Marshall Project), for behavior beyond their control.

      It’s a hypocrisy that we, as a country, fully recognize that a child’s undeveloped brain PREVENTS the logical action and impulse control we would expect of an adult. And it is that failure to reconcile our knowledge with the law that is the basis of both of those articles, NOT as suggested by the prior comments simply to abolish it entirely.

      The brain is not developed until age 25. We KNOW teenagers aren’t adults but repeatedly hold them responsible for failing to act like one- simply because they “look like one.” (One of the attorneys quoted literally said without knowledge of their birthdate, what she sees looks like a man). The rights/responsibilities given and consequences applied to these individuals should coincide with what we now know is their possession of a child’s undeveloped brain. The alternative is no less ridiculous than the inexcusable defense used by rapists, “well, they look old enough.”

      To the author of the article, I believe the image at end, ‘Men should be offended’ is genius and something I’ve heard before but not seen often enough.

  3. Kathy Scarbrough
    October 18, 2020 at 10:09 am

    I don’t think a 20 year old Stanford student is equivalent to younger teens. He’s not a juvenile according to the law, and he did commit rape. Brain maturity at 25 is an average, of course, and not only is human variation large but maturity doesn’t magically develop overnight. A 20 year old of average intelligence should certainly know forcing yourself on a semi conscious woman behind a dumpster is wrong. And what about justice for her? ChildPsych101 doesn’t seem to consider her at all.

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