Rape culture is everywhere: in movies (Spring Breakers), music (“Blurred Lines”), the media (Steubenville) and more. I’m always mad but rarely surprised when I hear yet another song that promotes rape culture or see ads of women looking a little too submissive and vulnerable (I’m looking at you, Equinox). We rarely see justice in these instances and when we do, it’s usually a superficial face-saving statement or some internal reflection after a public shaming.
The justice we don’t see in the entertainment industry we expect to live elsewhere- like, say, THE JUSTICE SYSTEM, for example. There is one place we certainly don’t expect rape culture to flourish- the courtroom.
But that’s where it lived and breathed this week when former Montana teacher Stacey Rambold received a 30-day sentence for repeatedly raping his 14 year old student Cherice Morales, who committed suicide just shy of her 17th birthday, an event her mother describes as being influenced by her relationship with Rambold. The judge, G. Todd Baugh, justified the sentence with the low-brow statement that Cherice was “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold and that she was “older than her chronological age.” Do you smell that, readers? That’s the foul smell of a judge exploiting his position of power, much like Rambold did, to perpetuate rape culture while simultaneously delivering some of the most patriarchal and offensive comments one could possibly speak while sitting, quite literally, on a pedestal. For a public servant to manipulate the law in an effort to appease his own moral compass, which is pointing ass backwards if you ask me, completely invalidates and discredits the justice system.
So here’s our problem: What do we do when rape culture is institutionalized and perpetuated by the judicial system? It’s a fucked up and broken system, sure, but why are we allowing rape apologists to occupy the bench?
Feminist writer and reporter Elizabeth Plank, in her analysis for PolicyMic, says of rape culture:
“It’s everywhere, but it becomes that much palpable (and scary) when it pops up in our justice system.”
Who protects victims if the justice system won’t? Last time I checked, Batman was out of commission. More seriously, this isn’t solely about justice for Cherice and her family. It’s about justice for all victims of sexual assault and abuse. It’s about NO meaning NO. It’s about the perpetrator not being allowed to define consent. It’s about not blaming the victim. It’s about rape being a tool of oppression and power and having that universally understood. It’s about taking rape seriously, for fuck’s sake!
So let’s start by petitioning Judge G. Todd Baugh to take rape seriously and give Rambold the 20-year sentence initially sought by Cherice’s family.
After all, there’s liberty and justice for everyone in America, right?