If you text a guy and then he rapes you, are you any less of a victim? Is he less of a rapist?
According to the Dallas Morning News, a judge in Texas sentenced an admitted rapist to five years probation instead of a prison sentence because the girl he raped "wasn't the victim she claimed to be" and the assailant "is not your typical sex offender." Why? Because the 14-year-old wasn't a virgin, texted with her rapist before the attack, and didn't cry during the rape.
Twenty-year-old Sir Young pleaded guilty to raping the girl, now 17, in 2011 at their high school. He faced 20 years in prison, and was instead sentenced to five years of probation, 45 days in jail, and community service at a rape crisis center. Typically, probation for a rapist comes with a series of conditions, including staying away from children and undergoing evaluation and psychological treatment for sex offenders. State District Judge Jeanine Howard of Dallas County changed the standard probation requirements so that Young does not have to do any of that.
"There are rape cases that deserve life. There are rape cases that deserve 20 years," Howard said. "Every now and then you have one of those that deserve probation. This is one of those and I stand by it."
Young still has to register as a sex offender. His attorney says that while Young did rape the girl, it was a case of "two kids messing around at school."
Most of the time when two kids mess around at school, one of them doesn't end up raped — unless the "messing around" is with a rapist.
Unfortunately, Young is exactly the prototype of a typical rapist. Your "typical rapist" — or at least your statistically average rapist — isn't jumping out of the bushes; he's attacking women he knows, and he's doing so in an environment that enables his actions. That means rapists target women and girls in situations where they know there will be plausible deniability because of social and legal acceptance of myths about "real" victims and "typical" rapists. They target women who are drinking, or women they've had sex with before, or women who flirted with them, or women who they know won't be seen as 100 percent innocent. Most rape survivors know their attackers. Nearly anything a victim does — what she wore, her sexual history, her interactions with her assailant — can be spun to show that she's imperfect.
The truth is no victim is perfect. Too often, judges use that fact to let rapists off the hook.
Making this case even more egregious is the fact that part of Young's probation included volunteering at a rape crisis center. The center at which Young was set to volunteer understandably rejected his request, not wanting an admitted rapist volunteering on the same grounds as rape survivors. But it does offer some insight into the judge's thought process: It's about helping an admitted rapist, not about justice for his victim.
Criminal defendants, including violent ones, do deserve rehabilitation and an array of services to help make sure they don't offend again. And American prison sentences are far too long — courts should be requiring less time behind bars. But along with less time in prison should come intensive counseling for offenders and mechanisms to deter future bad acts. In this case, not only did the defendant walk away without the standard sex offender treatment, but the judge also gave him the very clear message that what he did wasn't all that bad.
That's a recipe for reoffending, not rehabilitation.
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