Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Not again! Another victim blamed for being raped

A news article I just read made me groan, “Not again.” 

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.

Billings, MT 

 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).  

Dallas, TX

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. 

I invite you to share and discuss your thoughts with others in the comments section below.

*10/4/14 NOTE: The link to the article mentioned does not currently work, as the site it was published on is no longer in existence. I apologize for this inconvenience, and if it is republished I will update the link.


  1. Every time I read stories like the ones you mentioned in this entry, my stomach twists just a bit more. There's still so much that needs to be done to stop rape culture and get away from victim blaming.

    Yesterday, I started reading "Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men", by Lundy Bancroft. It's about abusive men, not all of whom are rapists, but a lot of what I've seen thus far seems to align with the point of views these judges and others like them reinforce. Namely, people in power (men in this case) are entitled to take what they want from victims (women, most often), and men shouldn't be held accountable for their actions when applied to women (or girls, owing to the ages of the victims here). Since the judges seem to view the men as next to blameless, of course responsibility falls on the girls. So ridiculous.

    It makes me wonder what sorts of sentences the rapists would have gotten if their victims were over 18, if any, since statutory rape laws had to play into it somewhere.

    1. Emilie, you summarized this issue well! In the Montana case, the judge seemed to believe statutory rape laws didn't really apply, even though the victim was 14, because he thought she “seemed older than her chronological age.” To borrow your adjective - “ridiculous”!

  2. Great post and great article. It's so important to keep bringing this issue to the forefront. When I was in high school, a male teacher had a sexual relationship with a student. At the trial, she was portrayed as a promiscuous 15 year old who lured him into a relationship. What?? It resulted in a hung jury and he was never sentenced. Even at that age I was disgusted. Thanks for a thought provoking post.

    1. That poor girl. I hope the school fired him!

    2. No they did not - he actually still works for the district, if you can believe it :( His wife did divorce him though...


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