We must stop blaming the victims

In case you haven’t heard, a Montana teacher was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with all but 31 days suspended & credit for 1 day served, for the rape of a 14 year old student.  In short, Stacey Rambold spent 30 days in jail for the rape of a 14 year old girl.  The State is appealing the sentence as unlawful, but Rambold is free pending that appeal.

The case began in 2008, when Rambold was charged with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent.  Rambold had originally admitted to one charge of rape, but the case was dismissed and Rambold was to undergo sex-offender treatment.  Charges were re-filed in December 2012 when prosecutors learned that he was kicked out of the treatment program for having unsupervised visits with minors. However, the victim had committed suicide on February 6, 2010. She was almost 17.

Not surprisingly, the judge has been heavily criticized for the light sentence and for commenting that the student was “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold, her teacher.  Judge Baugh stated that he believed the girl was a troubled youth after reviewing statements made before her death.  Of course she was troubled before her death, she had been raped by a teacher.  After apologizing for his inappropriate comments, he went on to say that “I think that people have in mind that this was some violent, forcible, horrible rape.… It was horrible enough as it is just given her age, but it wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape.”  Rambold’s attorney argues that his client has already suffered enough, having lost his career & reputation.

What appalls me the most about this case is that those words came from a judge.  Someone who has been elected or appointed to serve their community and uphold justice.  But the ‘blame the victim’ attitude is, unfortunately, all too common.

I was already fired up by Judge Baugh’s statements when I learned that an LSU law student was arrested for rape.  Of course I went to The Advocate’s website to investigate.  According to the article, the victim was at the home of her attacker.  She told him no & he became aggressive, eventually raping her.  He was later recorded apologizing to her.  Now, I know better than to read the comments on a local newspaper’s website, but I couldn’t help myself here.  I’m an LSU Law alum & wanted to see what people are saying.  Here’s a glimpse:

comments

I don’t know if this man is innocent or guilty, but the comments are infuriating!  When are we going to start holding these men accountable?  It does not matter if she was friends with him or met him that night, she had the right to say NO at any time.  It was the duty of her attacker to maintain some self-control & not force himself on an unwilling woman, regardless of whether she was in his apartment or on the street.  But the victim is blamed and will probably undergo as much, if not more, scrutiny than her attacker.  It is the above type of comments & attitude that make it so difficult for victims to speak out.

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