In a recent post, I wrote about the simple but sad truth that child victims of sexual assault have been largely forgotten by the power structure in this country. My theory is that this neglect occurs because children have no lobbyists, trade groups, or the ability to speak out as a group and march for their cause. I can hear you thinking: “Is she crazy? Of course everyone cares about child victims of sexual assault.” Current conditions put the lie to that claim, is my response. An example? Just last week, yet another occupant of a judicial office (I refuse to dignify this disgrace with the term “judge”) sentenced a child sex offender to what really amounts to a finger-wagging warning not to do it again.
Stacey Dean Rambold was a high school teacher in Montana when he repeatedly raped a 14 year-old student. Or, as the formal charges refer to this crime, “sexual intercourse without consent.” Again and again we allow euphemisms to mask the criminal sexual assault of a child. As a former prosecutor, I certainly understand degrees of culpability. In this case, however, this re-labeling of rape is outrageous. “Without consent” has the obvious meaning: rape. Perhaps he would have been more severely charged and/or punished if the child had been available to testify against him. Why wasn’t she? She killed herself while the case was pending, rendering prosecution of this offender challenging. So, he rapes a 14 year-old who kills herself, leading to his fortuitous escape from more serious consequences. Her family is not so lucky. Adding further insult, the occupant of the judicial office assigned to the case actually stated, in open court and on the record, that the child was “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold. This comment really makes one’s blood boil. He is blaming the victim. You know, the one not there to defend herself because she took her own life. Who will stand up for the voiceless?