Usually my writing involves lighter and more enjoyable topics than sexual assault. Forgive me if it is not something you want to think about. I don’t really either, but sometimes if we are trying to make the most of all of our moments, we have to take a stand.
To be honest, I had never really given much thought to the rape culture in our society until this summer, when I read and wrote about some controversial decisions and statements by a Montana judge regarding a rape victim. Now another judge’s comments have me riled up again.
Let’s get one thing straight. Rape is NEVER the fault of the victim.
Rape, as defined by Oxford Dictionaries, is the crime “of forcing another person to have sexual relations with the offender against their will.” By this definition, if at any time during a sexual act an individual is or becomes an unwilling participant, insisting on the continuation of the act would be rape.
Light Sentences and Judges Comments Make International News
Two rape cases in the United States have recently made International news, when the judges issued unbelievable lenient sentences for the rapists, and laid blame for the rape on the victim. These cases were tried in two different areas of the United States, by different judges (one male, one female). The victims in both cases were only 14 years old.
On Monday, August 26th 2014 in Billings, Montana, Judge G.Todd Baugh sentenced Stacey Rambold to just “15 years in prison with all but 30 days suspended, for a single count of felony sexual intercourse without ” According to the Billings Gazette, Judge Baugh justified this by claiming the victim was “older than her chronological age” of 14, and that she was “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold, a high school teacher (Billings Gazette).
During the first week of May, 2014 in Dallas, Texas, according to CBS news, State District Judge Jeanine Howard sentenced 20 year-old Sir Young “to 45 days in jail and 5 years’ probation. She also ordered him to complete 250 hours of community service at a rape crisis center.” The judge attempted to justify this light sentence in comments to The Dallas Morning News by stating the 14 year-old girl who was raped by him “wasn’t the victim she claimed to be.” She told Dallas News “she made her decision, in part, because the girl previously had multiple sex partners and had agreed to sex with Young, who was 18 at the time of the 2011 assault, but did not want to do it at school.” According to the Dallas Morning News, both Young and the victim testified that the girl said “no”and “stop” at times during the encounter.
There is so much wrong with both of these two cases, I hardly know where to begin!
In February, Victim-Shaming Must Cease (an article I wrote regarding the Billings, Montana case) was published on-line by Yahoo Contributor Network. The points I made, including the need for a major overhaul of our current rape culture mentality, are equally pertinent to the Texas case. Interestingly enough, while writing that article I considered Judge Boughs’ male bias to be a factor in his decision process - but female Judge Howard’s decision further emphasizes a lack of understanding by both genders regarding the need to obliterate any shame associated with rape.
Not all rapists have the personality of monsters.
Sir Young may usually be a very nice young man, carried away in the moment of lust. But the responsibility in this instance lies with him. Rape can never be justified by claims of provocation, and the victim (an unwilling participant at any point) is never to blame. The emphasis of our culture should be on the expectation of respect and self control, rather than perpetuating the myth that rape can be provoked. I understand a judge may believe different sex offenders deserve different types of sanctions, based on previous record, character, and remorse. I actually believe a fair trial would consider these factors. It is unconscionable to me, however, that a judge could justify a light sentence because of any actions or characteristics of the victim. And as for a rapist serving community service hours at a rape crisis center? I can't think of anything less appropriate!
A rape victim is never “asking for it” no matter how promiscuous she may be perceived to be. Sexual assault victims should feel supported not shamed.
I hope you will also read my other article, Victim-Shaming Must Cease,* and the other news links.