On the same day that Stanford University student Brock Turner infamously received a mere six months of prison time for sexual assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, another victim stood in the same courtroom, expecting her abusive ex-fiancé to be punished for beating her. Instead, Judge Aaron Persky—who also presided over the Brock Turner case—gave Ming Hsuan Chiang weekend jail so that he could continue his job as an engineer in Silicon Valley.
According to police reports obtained by The Guardian, on October 6, 2014, Chiang punched the victim, a Chinese immigrant known as Jane Doe, approximately five times at their Sunnyvale, California, home; he also dragged her by the hair and threw her. She suffered injuries to her face and body, which were evident in photos she showed to the court on June 2. Several people in the gallery who'd come to see Turner sentenced for trying to rape an unconscious woman gasped or shielded their eyes, The Guardian reported.
Chiang had been arrested for domestic violence and charged with assaulting a spouse and inflicting injuries "resulting in a traumatic condition." He pleaded no contest to a domestic violence felony of battery causing "serious bodily injury," which could have yielded him four years in state prison.
Instead, Persky gave him 72 days in county jail, agreeing to allow him to complete the sentence on weekends for approximately 12 weeks. Ultimately, Chiang will only serve half of the sentence. Michele Landis Dauber, who was in the courtroom that day and a family friend of the woman in the Stanford case, said the judge appeared to be more concerned about Chiang's ability to get to work on time than he did about the victim.
Doe told The Guardian she felt let down by Persky's decision. "I have evidence. I have witnesses. I have police reports. I have photos," she said. "If he had used more force, maybe I'd be dead or my brain would be dead."
"It's just like the Stanford case," Doe added, noting that Chiang also benefited from the privilege of being highly educated and wealthy enough to afford a private lawyer.
One difference, though, was that because English is not her first language, Doe's statement wasn't delivered as eloquently as the victim statement in Turner's case. The victim, who emigrated from Taiwan when she was a teenager, struggled at times; on multiple occasions, Persky asked her to hurry up and finish her remarks, The Guardian reports.
According to research compiled by the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, 41 to 61 percent of Asian women in the US report experiencing physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime.
The victim lamented to The Guardian the lack of resources available to minorities in similar situations, but Sujata Warrier, the training and technical assistance director at the Battered Women's Justice Project, says there are actually a lot of domestic violence organizations that can help. According to her, the problem stems from a combination of a lack of information and inconsistent information.
"We tend to give a lot of emphasis to cultural markers and cultural contributors, which are important, but by themselves they are not the only reasons why women don't use the system," she tells Broadly. "A part of it is because the immigration system itself is complicated. People don't want to get removed from the country because they are not sure of the interlinks between [the criminal justice system and the immigration system]."
In this specific case, Warrier acknowledges the existence of "a problematic judge," and notes that the light punishment sends a discouraging message to other victims of violence—an observation similar to the one toted by those outraged at Turner's sentence.
It's not just that women are struggling to figure out how to use the system and whether they should, Warrier says. It's also having to weigh the repercussions of doing so—which, for immigrant women, include potentially having to deal with immigration authorities. And all for what?
"If there are other women like [Doe]," Warrier says, "will they use the system where they know [their abuser] is likely to get a slap on the wrist?"