Where Is the Justice for Juvenile Sexual Assault Victims?

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Approximately 44% of sexual assault victims are under the age of 18.  Further, 60% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, and 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail.  After reviewing a couple recent cases, it is easy to see why sexual assaults are not routinely reported to the police.

For example, a Texas high-school senior, Rachel Bradshaw-Bean, was allegedly raped in a band room and after reporting the incident to her band director and principal, was forced to leave her school and attend a disciplinary school with the alleged rapist.  After an initial investigation including a medical evaluation which found Rachel had lacerations consistent with rape, the school determined the claims could not be substantiated, charged the young woman with “public lewdness,” and placed her in disciplinary alternative education program alongside her alleged attacker.  Removing Rachel from her high school and placing her in disciplinary school jeopardized her chances of graduating on time, and placed her in the same school, and possibly the same classes, as her alleged attacker.  Fortunately, the American Civil Liberties Union and their Texas affiliate began assisting Rachel and her family.

Sandra Park, a senior attorney with the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union explained that a series of mistakes occurred.  First, when Rachel reported the sexual assault to the band director immediately after the incident, he told her to work it out with the perpetrator, which is not what a rape victim should have to do.  Next, after reporting the incident to the principal, the principal appropriately reported the sexual assault to law enforcement, but the school prematurely ended its investigation.  Similarly, the police quickly closed its case after investigating only one day and charged Rachel with public lewdness, which is questionable because a rape kit supported her story.  Lastly, the school disciplined Rachel and sent her to an alternative education program, which Park describes as “a serious flaw and mistake by the school.”

Subsequently, the ACLU worked to get Rachel transferred back into a regular high school so she could graduate on time, and filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights at the federal Department of Education alleging the school had violated Title IX, the federal law prohibiting gender discrimination in education.  In the summer of 2012, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights ruled that Rachel’s Title IX rights had been violated.  In regard to sexual assaults on school campuses, Sandra Park stated, “[I]t’s vitally important that school administrators and police really understand their obligations to respond to the violence and not turn around and penalize the victim like they did in Rachel’s case.”

Although Rachel’s case ended positively, the Rusk County District Attorney Michael Jimerson stated that in Rachel’s interview with the forensic specialist, she had used language that “implied consensual sex instead of forcible rape.”  Likewise, a case in Louisiana last year alleged that an incarcerated 14-year-old consented to be raped by a corrections officer.  In that case, a Louisiana parish stated it should not liable for the rape of a 14-year-old girl in a juvenile detention center because the victim “consented” to be sexually assaulted by a 40-year-old guard at the facility.  It was argued that the guard could not have sexual relations with the victim inside the detention center without cooperation from her because the guard did not use force, violence, or intimidation when engaging in sexual relations.

Carolyn McNabb, an Louisiana attorney and child advocate, criticized the parish’s victim-blaming in a letter to parish attorneys:  “To say that a 14-year-old mentally and emotionally distressed girl with a history of having been abused and neglected as a child should be found at fault for consenting to be raped by a male guard while in confinement at the hands of my local government, which is charged with the responsibility of keeping her safe, not only sets the cause of children’s advocacy back a hundred years, but I believe the parish government commits ‘documentary’ sexual assault against the child by taking this position in a public record.”  Additionally, Marci Hamilton, a nationally recognized sex crime victim advocate and professor at Benjamin Cardozo Law School in New York, (and former clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor), criticized the parish’s argument stating, “The defense has no basis in law.”  Further, “She is a victim of statutory rape.  The age of consent in Louisiana is 17.  The defense is also offensive to sex assault victims everywhere.”

The guard, Angelo Vickers, finally pled guilty to molestation of a juvenile and is serving a 7-year sentence.  Although the Texas and Louisiana victims were able to find some justice through the courts, too often victims of sexual assault are blamed and/or face retaliation for reporting the crime.  Further, rapists are often punished minimally or not at all.  On college campuses, young males have been found guilty of violating the sexual assault policies, but are only forced to undergo counseling or issued a no-contact order, which may still allow them to be in the same classes as their victim.  Moreover, a 2005 Department of Justice study found that only 56% of prison employees who were clearly caught sexually abusing inmates were referred for prosecution, and many are released on low bonds or given negligible sentences on the grounds that their victims were in prison.  Which leave one to wonder if there is any justice for juvenile sexual assault victims.  We would like to hear your opinions on this issue; please post your thoughts below.

 

For more information:

http://m.democracynow.org/stories/14120

www.salon.com/2013/08/07/louisiana_parish_claims_incarcerated_14_year_old_consented_to_be_raped_by_her_corrections_officer

http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/crime/lawyers-want-louisiana-court-consider-14-year-old-consented-rape#

 

Photo Credit: sakhorn via Shutterstock

Friday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Court Upholds Search of School Aide’s Desk in Child Sex-Abuse Case, The School Law Blog – Education Week

A police search of an instructional aide’s school desk for evidence of inappropriate communications with an elementary student did not violate the Fourth Amendment, Maryland’s highest court has ruled.

The ruling came in the case of a special education “paraeducator” who was convicted of sexual abuse of a minor and attempted sexual abuse, based entirely on a series of passionate notes and letters the aide had delivered to an 8-year-old girl at the school.

The aide, Karl Marshall Walker Jr., was 38 years old at the time the case unfolded. After a teacher found one inappropriate note in the girl’s possession, the police searched Walker’s desk in a common area of the school. With the school principal’s consent, police searched the desk and removed a box belonging to Walker. They obtained a warrant for that box, which contained notes from the 8-year-old girl to Walker.

 

Juvenile law restorative, not retributive: SC, The Peninsula

New Delhi: The Supreme Court yesterday upheld the Juvenile Justice Act providing for a special reformist approach towards a minor irrespective of the nature of crime committed by him or her, saying that the law aimed to save children in conflict from becoming hardened criminals.

“The essence of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, and the rules framed thereunder in 2007, is restorative and not retributive, providing for rehabilitation and reintegration of children in conflict with law into the mainstream of society,” said an apex court bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice S S Nijjar.

Chief Justice Kabir said: “There are, of course, exceptions where a child in the age group of 16-18 may have developed criminal propensities, which would make it virtually impossible for him/her to be reintegrated into mainstream society, but such examples are not of such proportions as to warrant any change in thinking…”

“…It is probably better to try and reintegrate children with criminal propensities into mainstream society, rather than to allow them to develop into hardened criminals, which does not augur well for the future,” the court said.

Assault Charges for Stepmother After a Girl Falls, NYTimes.com

The stepmother of a 7-year-old girl who was critically injured this month when she fell from a sixth-floor window in Brooklyn has been arrested on assault charges, the police said on Thursday.

On July 10, the woman, Diana Metellus, 19, beat the girl with a belt, then left her unsupervised in a room with no window guards, the police said. Ms. Metellus faces charges including assault with a weapon and acting in a manner injurious toward a child.

The child, who suffered injuries to her lungs, brain and pelvis in the fall, was later found with signs of abuse and traces of cannabis, methadone and amphetamines in her system, the authorities said.

In Tamil Nadu, Nearly 150 Hospitalized After Eating School Lunch, NYTimes.com

NEW DELHI— As many as 147 school girls were hospitalized on Thursday after eating a free lunch at a government school in Tamil Nadu, the local hospital authorities said.

The children from an all-girls high school in Neyveli township in the Cuddalore district complained of dizziness, vomiting and diarrhea soon after they ate a meal of sambar (a spicy lentil broth) and rice, said Dr. Pattu Ravi, a general superintendent at Neyveli General Hospital. He also said that some of those admitted had been given bread for lunch.

The students, ages 12 to 15, received emergency treatment after they were brought into the hospital Thursday afternoon in groups. Describing it as a simple case of “food infection,” Dr. Ravi said none of the patients were in critical condition. After keeping them under observation overnight, the children are likely to be discharged Friday morning, he said.

Dr. Ravi declined to confirm local media reports that identified contaminated eggs as the cause of the illness.

This incident raised alarms as it came a day after more than 20 children in Bihar died from eating a government school lunch believed to have been prepared with cooking oil stored in a pesticide container. One more child died Thursday, bringing the death toll to 23, and nearly two dozen children are still hospitalized.

Friday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Fewer Kids in Illinois Prisons, Illinois Times

During the late 1980s and 1990s, Illinois’ youth prisons began filling up rapidly. The tough-on-crime approach that began in the 1960s was at the peak of popularity, and state law reflected it in mandatory minimum sentences and other provisions. From 1985 to 2000, the state’s population of incarcerated youth more than doubled, from 1,534 to 3,074.

But changes in how Illinois handles youth crime and punishment have reversed that trend, and Illinois now ranks among the top states in reducing the number of incarcerated youth. That number has dropped from 3,003 in 2001 to less than 900 at present.

A new report by the National Juvenile Justice Network and the Texas Public Policy Foundation details the progress made in Illinois and eight other states which have seen drastic reductions in youth incarceration. Despite the advances, however, advocates say major problems still exist in Illinois’ juvenile justice system.

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Landmark Children’s Rights Case, Child Law Blog

Earlier today, the United States Supreme Court agreed to review a case brought by the Marsh Law Firm concerning criminal restitution for victims of child pornography.

The Court agreed to decide “what, if any, causal relationship or nexus between the defendant’s conduct and the victim’s harm or damages must the government or the victim establish in order to recover restitution under 18 U.S.C. §2259,” the Mandatory Restitution for Sexual Exploitation of Children Act of 1994.

The case, Doyle Randall Paroline v. Amy Unknown, arises out of a long-fought and extensively litigated criminal restitution action which began almost four years ago before Judge Leonard Davis in the Eastern District of Texas Tyler Division.

PARCC Adopts Spec. Ed. Testing Policy for Common Core, Education Week

UPDATE: PARCC has posted online the materials on accommodations for special education students and common-core testing that it made available to its governing board. Please see memo to the board that outlines the contents of the policy; a PowerPoint presentation on the manual, and a draft of the final policy. An edited version is planned for release in late July.

Students with disabilities will be able to use read-aloud accommodations on the English/language arts portion of the common core tests, with no requirement that they be virtually unable to read printed text or be at the beginning stages of learning to decode, according an accommodations manual approved today by the governing board of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers.