Justice system needs to take rape cases more seriously
Published: Monday, September 9, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 9, 2013 23:09
When I was 14, I was an ardent Republican, and after years of wearing a school uniform, I could barely dress myself in a semblance of style. When Cherice Moralez was fourteen, she was raped by her teacher, Stacey Dean Rambold, a man almost four times her age. Instead of defending this girl, who committed suicide due to the pressures of the trial and bullying that she received as a result of coming forward with her assault, the justice system has made a critical error by sentencing Rambold to a light 30-day sentence even after he admitted the rape occurred. In fact, the judge who laid down the sentence, Judge G. Todd Baugh, basically told the victim the turmoil that cost Moralez her life was insignificant, adding comments that make it all too clear how society views its teenage girls.
The reality is Cherice Moralez was put on trial for her own rape with comments from Judge Baugh saying she was “older than her chronological age,” and that Moralez was “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold. No. Just no. In Montana, where the case was tried, you cannot give consent if you are under the age of 16, because you are simply not capable of making those decisions. The judge also completely ignored the power dynamic at play here: Rambold was a much older man and her teacher. He abused his position of power over her where he could affect her future at the school and as a result, her life. Instead, the judge figured his own analysis of the girl, gained from two video interviews presented at the trial, was enough to decide that Moralez was not a victim, even if the state law said otherwise.
After Judge Baugh handed down this sentence, he realized the error (or rather heard there were a lot of people complaining, and mind you, he is up for re-election next year) and backtracked. I mean, come on, is it really that illegal to suspend a rapist’s sentence to 30 days in jail when the minimum sentence is two years? Who would have thought? The real issue is that even if the appeal goes through and Rambold gets the proper sentence, what rape victims are going to come forward now? As Cherice’s mother, Auliea Hanlon, said to CNN, “It discourages other kids from coming forward. If they come forward, what’s going to happen? Nothing.” She is right; we live in a country where not only just 46 percent of rapes are reported, but only 3 percent serve even a single day in jail. This also says nothing of the backlash one receives for coming forward; see also Steubenville rape cases that were tried earlier this year.
We need to talk about why it is so easy for a judge to claim that a 14-year-old girl is to blame in this type of situation. Why is the sexualization of teenage girls so common? Because the sexualization of women everywhere is so plain to see and everything we see screams at us that our self-worth comes from the attention men give us. While I was researching this article and reading about a devastating rape case, I saw a link to a nice “Kellie Pickler WOWS in Teeny Bikini” article. Thank you, Huffington Post. It is right there, staring us in the face. Instead of asking why society is pressuring young girls to look a certain way, we are only dealing with a small symptom of a much larger issue. Moralez is a victim no matter how she dressed or acted because at the end of the day she was fourteen when a 49-year-old man took advantage of the situation and of her. At the end of the day, it cost her her life.
In the aftermath of this case, we need to realize that our outrage at this type of situation cannot end because even this terrible excuse for justice is better than 97 percent of rape cases out there. Aren’t we done sexualizing teenagers, giving certain teachers excuses for their predatory behavior or refusing to believe girls like Cherice are the victims here? I am done with a justice system that fails girls like Cherice, that blames them for situations in which they have no control. What I am not done with is being angry for the situation society has put girls like Cherice in: where they must be as sexual and attractive as Kellie Pickler in that bikini, but pure enough so guys like Rambold and Baugh do not try to justify their deplorable actions.