The system is fucked. Where are the vigilantes?

Dahlia Lithwick writes about two high-profile rape cases in Slate. One of those cases is that of Stacey Rambold’s non-sentence for his rape of Cherice Morales, but she doesn’t have any new info on that. We do have some more details from CBS News on Judge Baugh’s remarks:

In handing down the sentence, Baugh also said the 14-year-old victim was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as the teacher. The girl’s mother, Auleia Hanlon, stormed out of the courtroom yelling, “You people suck!,” the Billings-Gazette reported.

Baugh told the newspaper Tuesday that he stood by his comments that the victim was a troubled youth who was older than her age when it came to sexual matters. That didn’t make Rambold’s sex with the teen any less of a crime, he said.

“Obviously, a 14-year-old can’t consent. I think that people have in mind that this was some violent, forcible, horrible rape,” Baugh told the paper. “It was horrible enough as it is just given her age, but it wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape.”

and contrast that with this:

“I think what people are seeing is a sentence for rape of 30 days. Obviously on the face of it, if you look at it that way, it’s crazy,” Baugh said. “No wonder people are upset. I’d be upset, too, if that happened.”

Yes, Judge Baugh, that is exactly what happened. You assigned a sentence for rape of 30 days. That is what you did, and we are right to be upset.

Also, was it “horrible enough as it is just given her age,” or was she “older than her chronological age”? Just because you make mea culpa gestures at reporters, your “reasoning” doesn’t become any more coherent or less despicable. You’re all like, “Okay, a 14-year-old can’t consent, but since he didn’t beat her up, I’m not actually sentencing him for rape. And she was actually older than 14 in terms of sexual matters. Because…that’s the way I’ve chosen to think of the case.” Keep on digging that hole, Judge! I’m sure you’ll love it when you reach Afghanistan!

The other case in Lithwick’s article is the one in Massachusetts, in which a judge’s idea of a “sentence” for a rapist is to have him engage with the court system to take responsibility for his victim’s child.

The first story comes from Massachusetts, where a plaintiff known only as H.T. has sued the commonwealth in federal court for forcing her into a long-term relationship with her rapist. In 2009 H.T. became pregnant as the result of a rape that occurred when she was 14—in middle school. Her rapist, Jamie Melendez, was 20. Melendez pleaded guilty to the rape in 2011 and was sentenced to 16 years of probation. But the conditions of his probation also included an order that he “initiate proceedings in family court and comply with that court’s orders until the child reaches adulthood.” In short, according to the new complaint filed by H.T., the man who raped her was ordered to “initiate proceedings in family court, declare paternity as to the child born of his crime (paternity had already been determined in the criminal case, via DNA testing), and comply with the family court’s orders throughout the probationary period.”

This forced relationship between the victim and her assailant was judicially mandated despite the fact that the “plaintiff and her mother were adamantly opposed to participation in family court proceedings and repeatedly expressed this sentiment to state officials.”

In 2011 the court ordered Melendez to pay $110 per week in child support. Never having seen the child, he sought visitation and then allegedly offered to withdraw his request for visitation in exchange for not having to pay child support. H.T. asked the criminal court judge to order Melendez to pay criminal restitution instead of child support, keeping herself and her child out of his life, but the judge refused. The Supreme Judicial Court for Massachusetts found that she lacked standing to challenge the sentencing judge’s order. So H.T. filed suit arguing that she wants nothing to do with the child’s father, and that she “be liberated from a state court order that not only imposes unlawfully on her liberty for 16 years, but also obligates her with the unwanted and inappropriate responsibility for ensuring Melendez’s compliance with the conditions of his probation.”

I have more! From the link in Ms. Lithwick’s article:

 If Melendez pays child support, he has the right to request visitation, involvement in the child’s education, and influence where the child lives, the lawyer noted. If the victim fails to show up at any of the family court dates scheduled over the next 16 years, she risks losing custody of her own child.

[…]

The victim, who just graduated high school, never sought to prosecute Melendez, and is focused only on breaking off legal ties between them.

Not enough pinot noir in the world for this.

The judge’s name isn’t in either of the above linked articles, but a little Googling reveals that the judge in question is Thomas McGuire.

Judge McGuire is apparently under the impression that Jamie Melendez’s crime was fathering a child for whom he didn’t want to take responsibility. Whereas we plebes seem to think that he raped a 14-year-old girl.

H.T. and her family would actually be better off if they hadn’t reported the rape. The courts are basically punishing this young woman for having spoken up about her rape, and for keeping her child. She would also be in a better position if she’d had an abortion. I guess Judge McGuire thinks she had the baby because she wants to keep Melendez on a leash? Obviously she doesn’t. Obviously she wants Melendez to stay as far away from her, and her child, as possible. She and her family are not interested in his $110 per week, but the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts doesn’t give a fuck about the girl who’s been victimized and the family who’ve stood by her and helped care for her baby. Nope, they don’t get a say in any of this.

I understand that modern civilizations tend to take paternity very, very seriously, and that society would look extremely different if we weren’t so gung-ho about making sure that every child is connected to the guy who contributed sperm, but there are times when we need to compartmentalize. The victim and her family do not need the baby’s “father” to be “responsible” in the child’s upbringing, they need to keep him far away from them so they can get on with their lives. It is not in that child’s interest to have hir sperm-contributor present in hir life, it is in the child’s interest to grow up with a mentally healthy mother. Forcing your dick into a girl’s vadge doesn’t make you a parent, it makes you a predator. If the court system fails to recognize that, then they can hardly expect women and girls of childbearing age to report rapes. They can also expect all, not some, pregnant rape victims to seek abortions. If this is what she can expect from the justice system, even the most ardently pro-womb-control woman will make an exception for herself.

Fuck this shit. Fuck all of it. We can’t depend on the justice system to deal with rapists, or even to treat victims with a modicum of decency. If some masked crusaders start popping up and murdering accused rapists, let’s not act all surprised.

Here are some other charming stories, if you have a strong stomach, about how predators operate and how the justice system treats victims who have the temerity to report:

Why I didn’t consent. Why I reported. Why I didn’t. 

We call them pigs for a reason.

I am a false rape allegation statistic.