Sometimes it's great to set a precedent. It opens the doors to those who follow. You might be Gertrude Ederle becomes the first woman to swim across the English Channel. Or maybe Neil Armstrong, the first man to step onto the lunar surface. Admirable accomplishments that lead young, middle and old to dream of someday being the first to do something, big or small. I mean, wouldn't that be great?
Well, not always. Seems there's a prosecutor named Fred Van Valkenburg up on Montana whose office may have just set a first. They has been accused by the Justice Department of bias against female sexual assault victims and of mishandling rape cases according to federal officials this week. But Missoula County prosecutors office thinks its just a smear campaign. They didn't do anything wrong.
It's unusual and may be unprecedented for DOJ to accuse a prosecutor's office of violating the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law and the Safe Streets Act's prohibition against discriminating against female sexual assault victims. DOJ has issued findings involving sexual assault cases against three police departments, a sheriff's office and a campus police agency -- but not a prosecutor's office.
So we're looking at virgin territory here, with this DOJ accusation. If there's smoke where there's fire, lets see what's cookin'.
Jocelyn Samuels, acting assistant attorney general in DOJ's Civil Rights Division, told Van Valkenburg in a letteron Friday that his office was ill-prepared to prosecute sexual assault cases, treated victims with disrespect and "apparently leaves sexual assault and rape laws largely unenforced."
That's a pretty serious charge against the office. And it seems these claims of abuse and deaf ears by the prosecutors are numerous. One woman described dealing with her assault at the prosecutors office as "traumatic," as if the crime alone wasn't harrowing enough. Others said they were treated with no compassion whatsoever. These alleged victims felt "judged." That's hardly the way any victim wants to be made to feel when they're seeking out justice.
One woman was told that because "there was no video of the incident," prosecutors "wouldn't see this as anything more than a girl getting drunk at a party." What message is that sending? Yet Van Valkenburg who runs the office thinks he's being picked on. He claims these are just a few small examples and they shouldn't be taken with much more than a grain of salt.
Really? They shouldn't be taken seriously. Well how about this:
A clinical psychologist who counseled sexual assault victims said she had heard so many horror stories about the County Attorney's Office that she was reluctant to press charges with the office when she was sexually assaulted.
When even a psychologist with experience in this field is hesitant to move forward with her claim because of first hand knowledge of the abusive handling of such matters by the prosecutor's office, this is only the tip of the iceberg up in Missoula.
In one case, a woman whose 5-year-old daughter was assaulted by an adolescent boy asked why the boy's punishment was two years of community service. A prosecutor told her "boys will be boys," according to the DOJ letter.
Boys will be boys. Well hopefully the new boys and girls examining this office, will bring down the wrath of justice with the power of Thor and his hammer, Mjölnir.
Sad as all of this is, this Montana office isn't alone. And sexual crimes against women AND men are vastly under-reported because of louts like Attorney Van Valkenberg. Time to do a bit more investigating the investigators for their improper behavior. Women and men victims deserve better.
Just like the firsts of Ederle and Armstrong, they were followed by second and thirds accomplishing their amazing feats. Let's hope this trend continues with the DOJ.
The 'Skin in the Game' Myth (from 'Cowgirl Blog' - Montana's #1 Political Website)
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Melissa Harris-Perry, in part:
I would like to think a safe assumption that, of all people, a district court judge in Montana is intimately familiar with the laws in Montana. but your statements in court on Monday suggest that maybe you could use a bit of a refresher. So allow me to help you out.
According to Montana law, a victim is incapable of giving consent if the victim is less than 16 years old. Incapable of giving consent. Because, Judge Baugh, a victim less than 16 years old, in this case, a 14-year-old, is a child. A child like 44% of those who are victims of rape.
And the law codifies our collective understanding that children deserve special protections because their youth and immaturity makes them inherently disempowered in a sexual, as you call it, "situation" with an adult. Which means Charisse, this child, was in no way capable of controlling or consenting to the actions of the grown man who had sex with her, and I call her a victim here, not a survivor, because while she survived for the moment, she ultimately succumbed.
So she was no more able to prevent her rape than she was to somehow age herself beyond her 14 years.
So your statement that she was older than her chronological age, along with implicating her as a participant in her own assault, amounts to excusing the crimes of an adult while laying blame on a child that he victimized.
That child, Charisse, isn't even here anymore to speak for herself.
So if she were, she might tell you that it's this kind of shaming, the idea that it is somehow our own fault, that keeps so many survivors, including me, silent after their rape. And makes survivors four times as likely to contemplate the drastic action that Charisse ultimately chose to end their own lives.
Judge Baugh, it's bad enough that thanks to you an admitted child rapist will be a free man by the end of the month, but the day after the sentencing, you defended your decision by saying, quote, "I think that people have in mind that this was some kind of violent, forcible, horrible rape. It was horrible enough as it was, just given her age, but it wasn't this forcible, beat-up rape."
If I didn't know any better, I would think you were exchanging your judicial robes for a Republican seat in Congress, because you're sounding a lot like former Senator Todd "legitimate rape" Akin before his comments got him voted out of office.
So let me remind you a couple of the same things I reminded him of. First, rape is rape. full stop.
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