Stacey Dean Rambold, a 54-year-old teacher from Montana, has been sentenced to only 30 days in prison after he raped his 14-year-old student five years ago. She subsequently killed herself during the criminal investigation, just shy of her 17th birthday. Thirty days. And yet, horrifying as that is, that's not even the worst part.
The judge in the case didn't blame this man who was nearly 50 years old and in a position of power over this very young and troubled girl. He blamed the girl. Judge G. Todd Baugh said she knew what she was doing, was "older than her chronological age," and that she was "in control" as much as he was. He said all of this despite the 35-year age difference and his clear position of power over her.
And that's not all he said. In his "apology" letter, he was even worse. See below:
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.
Tell me: how is that different from Todd Akin's comments about "legitimate rape"? But even more, how is it possible that a judge could be so blind about the law? The age of consent in Montana is 16. This girl was under it by two years.
Even more, this teacher was nearly 50 years old. He knew much better. He just didn't care. Of course, people are outraged. There have been multiple protests, and when the sentence was handed down, the victim's mother shouted out at the judge in anger. Who could blame her? Her child is dead and "justice" is a joke.
The way teen girls are treated in this society is often appalling. Miley Cyrus (though not a teen at 20) is attacked for dancing provocatively while the 36-year-old man she twerked on is left alone.
Look at how 16-year-old Hannah Anderson is presumed to have had a role in her kidnapping and the murder of her mother and brother even though she is barely more than a child.
We may say 16 or 18 is the legal age of consent, but basically any girl who has gone through puberty and isn't willing to play the demure "good girl" is suspect. She might be complicit in her own rape if she is "troubled" or wears the wrong outfit or leads a man 35 years her senior on to the point of no return.
This judge needs to be removed from the bench. That much is obvious. But it's not just him. There are so many men and women who feel this way about teen girls, who blame first before they look at the facts.
This girl is dead because no one protected her and then she is victimized again after her death by a judge who says it's her fault. And many of us are OK with this. It's just heartbreaking. As her mother says:
I don't believe in justice anymore. She wasn't even old enough to get a driver's license.
How can any of us say we believe in a system that would do this?
Image via Alex/Flickr