In 2013, a judge in Montana, G. Todd Baugh, sentenced a former high-school teacher who’d pleaded guilty to raping a 14-year-old student. Giving the accused a suspended sentence plus 31 days, with credit for time served, Baugh remarked that the victim was “older than her chronological age,” and was “as much in control of the situation” as the teacher had been. The teenager couldn’t respond, because she’d ended her own life in 2010, while the case against her rapist was pending.
The previous year, Arizona Judge Jacqueline Hatch told a woman who’d been sexually assaulted in a bar by a state trooper, “If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened.” In 2014, after sentencing a man convicted of rape to five years probation, Texas State District Judge Jeanine Howard remarked in an interview with the Dallas Morning News that the 14-year-old girl accuser “wasn’t the victim she claimed to be.” Last year, Utah Judge Thomas Low described a former Mormon bishop convicted of rape as “an extraordinarily good man.”
No legal system is perfect. There are judges in America who fairly and reasonably try sexual assault cases every day. But, as cases from Brock Turner to Bill Cosby illustrate, women who come forward with charges of sexual assault in the U.S. frequently fail to get the justice they deserve. Out of every 1,000 instances of rape, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network explains on its website, only 13 cases are referred to a prosecutor, and only seven result in a felony conviction. When convictions do occur, sentences are frequently lenient, as with the Montana man who received a 60-day sentence for repeatedly raping his 12-year-old daughter, in the interests of the “rehabilitation of the offender.”