Thursday, August 29, 2013

Setting us Back 30 Years

Historically in  rape cases the tactic of blaming the victim (she was promiscuous, wore tight clothing, was intoxicated, shouldn't have been there) was used to rationalize the reason for the rape and absolve the offender of accountability. After all, if the victim doesn't have a stellar reputation it's OK and understandable to rape her, right? 

Well it seemed we were making strides in this area. In the Steubenville rape case, teenagers who were  high school football heroes were found guilty of rape of an intoxicated girl.  The US armed forces are under scrutiny for failure to adequately respond to sexual assaults. So just when you think things are improving, a Montana judge  proves you wrong. Judge G Todd Baugh gave minimal jail time of just 30 days to a middle aged teacher  who had sex with a 14 year old student. Why only 30 days? Because the victim, whom the judge had never met,  "acted older than her chronological age...and was as much in control of the situation" as the offender. 

A child, not even old enough to drive,  was on a level playing filed with her middle aged teacher? She was legally not of age to consent to sex. And he was a trusted authority figure. Perhaps the most tragic evidence that she was not in control of this situation is that the victim committed suicide as the case progressed.  

While Judge Baugh apologized for his insensitive words he defends his sentencing. He  has been on the bench almost 30 years. While our society has become less tolerant of sexual violence in those 30 years, it's clear he's still living in the past. 

How devastating for the girl's parents. First they find she was raped by a teacher. Then they lose their daughter to suicide. And now a judge trivializes the sexual assault, placing the blame on their deceased daughter instead of the adult male who knowingly violated a 14 year old child. Our society is better than this judge's decision. The parents of this girl deserve better from our criminal justice system.

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