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What is 'outercourse,' the term Brock Turner's lawyer used at sexual assault conviction appeal?

Elise Solé
An attorney for Brock Turner wants to overturn his 2016 conviction on the basis of “outercourse.” (Photo: Getty Images)

An attorney for convicted rapist Brock Turner is arguing that his 2016 conviction should be overturned because he had “sexual outercourse” with his victim. 

On Tuesday, according to NBC News, lawyer Eric Multhaup argued in a California appeals court that the then-19-year-old former Stanford University student did not intend to rape his unconscious victim, known as “Emily Doe,” behind a dumpster in January 2015 and that Turner’s behavior was simply “outercourse,” a “version of safe sex.”

Turner’s is one of the most controversial modern-day rape cases, due to his lenient sentence: six months in jail (of which he served only three months, evading a 14-year prison sentence), three years of probation, and registration as a sex offender in Ohio, Turner’s home state. He was also expelled from Stanford University two weeks after the crime occurred.

In a 2016 letter addressed to the court, Turner blamed his crime on too much drinking and “sexual promiscuity,” according to the New York Times, and insisted that his victim had consented. However, he wrote, “I want to demolish the assumption that drinking and partying are what make up a college lifestyle. I made a mistake, I drank too much, and my decisions hurt someone.” Turner’s father complained that his son’s future was ruined for “20 minutes of action.”

Turner’s 23-year-old victim also read a powerful statement in court (the entirety of which can be read on BuzzFeed) explaining how she only understood her experience by reading news articles while at work. “One more time, in public news, I learned that my ass and vagina were completely exposed outside, my breasts had been groped, fingers had been jabbed inside me along with pine needles and debris, my bare skin and head had been rubbing against the ground behind a dumpster, while an erect freshman was humping my half naked, unconscious body,” the statement read in part. 

Judge Aaron Persky, of the Santa Clara County Superior Court, had been criticized for his assessment that “a prison sentence would have a severe impact” on Turner, who was charged with three felony counts of sexual assault. The Atlantic reported that the case inspired California to update its definition of rape to include all types of sexual assault (not just penile penetration, which Turner did not commit) and eliminate the option of probation in cases that involve intoxicated victims.

This past June, Persky was recalled from the bench, the first judge to be removed in more than 80 years, according to the New York Times.

On Tuesday, NBC reported that the court has 90 days to make a decision but that Assistant Attorney General Alisha Carlile called Multhaup’s argument a “far-fetched version of events.” Justice Franklin Elia told Multhaup, “I absolutely don’t understand what you are talking about.”

“Outercourse” isn’t just high school slang — it’s an actual sexual act that omits vaginal penetration and subsequent pregnancy, according to Planned Parenthood, which lists kissing, massage, masturbating, dry humping, and swapping fantasies as examples. 

However, legally speaking, the word “outercourse” likely isn’t included in the California criminal code, making Multhaup’s claim creative at best, says Dante Pride, a partner at the Pride Law Firm in San Diego, Calif. “It sounds as though this attorney is trying to get his client off the sexual offender registry, which prevents a person from owning a firearm and, if they move, notifies new neighbors of their crimes,” Pride tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It also makes finding a job more challenging.” 

In Turner’s case, he’s registered as a Tier 3 sex offender, the highest level, and must reregister at the sheriff’s office every 90 days, according to the Washington Post.  

Jodi Omear,  VP of communications at Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), tells Yahoo Lifestyle,  “[Turner’s] argument is nonsense. Brock Turner violated an unconscious woman. He was convicted of assault with an intent to rape. His conviction was a direct result of his actions.”

Adds Pride, “This is legal maneuvering at its finest.”

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