A 54-year old former Montana school teacher who raped a 14-year old student three times in 2008, was given a 15 year prison sentence on Monday with all but one month suspended. Yellowstone County district judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced Stacey Dean Rambold on Monday, but rejected the prosecution’s plea for a longer prison sentence, stating that the girl was “older than her chronological age” and that she was ”as much in control of the situation” as the middle-aged teacher who repeatedly raped her.
This despite the fact that the young girl committed suicide while the case was pending and despite the fact that Rambold already failed to complete a sex offender program the court had mandated him to complete. He was terminated from the sex offender program because he failed to meet the conditions of the program by having unsupervised visits with minors and by failing to inform his counselors that he had resumed engaging in sexual relations with a woman.
Reminiscent of the Steubenville rape case earlier this year, the defendant’s attorney’s launched into “the poor rapist” line of defense, citing that the publicity surrounding the rape had cost Mr. Rambold his job, his marriage and his home and that he had suffered the equivalent of a “scarlet letter of the Internet”. Imagine that. A school teacher lost his job after raping a 14 year-old student three times and to add insult to injury his wife left him too. Damn that publicity, why will we as a nation and a community not just let him rape little girls in peace?
Once again, in America’s rape culture a male judge gives a male statutory rapist a proverbial slap on the wrist, because the girl seemed a little bit older than fourteen and boys will be boys after all. Apparently it did not occur to the judge or the school teacher that it is never acceptable for a 50-year old man to have sexual relations with a 14 year old girl in any setting, no matter what she wears, how she looks, or how mature she supposedly is for her age. While we in American are quick to condemn misogynist practices and rape in other cultures, we can no longer sit idly by as judges and attorneys in our own culture make excuses for rape. There is no justification for rape ever. Not ever. Rape is rape.
Judge G. Todd Baugh goes before the voters again in 2014. If he is not disbarred and removed from the bench before then, he should be removed from the bench by voters in 2014. No doubt he will argue that critics like myself are unfamiliar with the exact details of the case, but his attempts at justification will amount to nothing more than sophistry at best and being an apologist for rape at worst. No amount of judicial gymnastics can justify the unconscionable decision to let a rapist walk free in such a short amount of time. It does not matter how “respected” the rapist is or how eloquent and well-versed his attorney is or how mature or supposedly promiscuous the victim might have been, a middle-age school teacher has no business having sex with a 14-year old student under any circumstances.
We should shed no tears that the man has lost his career or his family, for his victim lost her innocence and ultimately her life after this sexual predator masquerading as a school teacher violated her trust and took her innocence from her. He should serve thirty years, not thirty days, before he is released. The judge who offered up such a lenient sentence should be removed from the bench.
This country has a rape problem and unfortunately it is sanctioned by misogynist judges like G. Todd Baugh who are indifferent to women’s suffering and who shrug their shoulders and think rape is no big deal. Is it any wonder that rape indifferent politicians like Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin surface each election cycle, when the judges in our communities treat rape as something where the child victim is ”as much in control of the situation” as the perpetrator and both are essentially therefore equally to blame? It is time to redouble our commitment as a nation to affirm that we will no longer tolerate excuses for rape and that we will accept no more apologist judges who tacitly support rape by failing to send convicted rapists to prison. Enough already!
Image: Ms. Magazine