From birth, Americans are primed to put their faith in authority. A steady stream of primetime crime dramas, featuring heroic law enforcement authorities saving the day and locking up the bad guys, prompt the general public to trust the criminal justice system. While acknowledging its flaws, Americans generally believe their justice system is fundamentally fair and just.
Unfortunately, their perception is not consistent with reality.
As mentioned in the previous article, only 29% of child sexual assault cases result in an arrest and those convicted are routinely handed light sentences. Here is a list of a few notable examples:
In Texas, a judge sentenced a confessed child rapist to just 45 days in jail. The rapist was not required to be listed as a sex offender, attend treatment or even stay away from children. Even after the perpetrator’s confession, the judge insisted that the victim “wasn’t the victim she claimed to be” and emphasized her past sexual history.
In Delaware, a DuPont heir was convicted of raping his three-year-old daughter and sexually abusing his toddler son. However, he was spared jail time because the judge declared that he would “not fare well” in prison.
In Montana, a man who repeatedly raped his 12-year-old daughter was sentenced to just 60 days in jail. The judge defended his decision, arguing that the rapist needed an opportunity to improve, rehabilitate and reintegrate back into the community.
In Michigan, a man who kidnapped and raped two young girls was sentenced to just one year in a county jail, serving only six months. He went on to rape another child after being released and was subsequently sentenced to four years in prison. After being released again, a judge awarded him joint custody of one of his victim’s children, which he did not request.
In Alabama, a convicted child rapist was spared jail time and instead required to serve two years in a program aimed at nonviolent criminals. His attorney argued that the punishment was too harsh.
In Pennsylvania, a cop who violently raped and tortured two little boys over a seven-year period was sentenced to just nine months in a county jail and given work release.
In California, a judge reduced the sentence of a man convicted of raping a toddler by 15 years. The judge went to great lengths to downplay the crime and humanize the rapist, arguing that he “didn’t mean to hurt” the toddler and that a 25-year mandatory sentence would be “cruel and unusual punishment” for him.
These cases are not isolated incidents. Post-Crescent Media examined 153 child sexual assault cases between the period of August 2009 and September 2014 and found that only about half of the cases ended in a conviction and most perpetrators served an average prison sentence of just 3-5 years. Many were spared prison. The examination also found that over half of defendants were released from jail during court proceedings and 40% were not required to register as sex offenders.
When reviewing child sexual assault cases, a startling pattern emerges, one marked by sympathy for child rapists and indifference towards victims. One possible explanation is the standard perception of child rapists as visibly evil, barbaric monsters. Ordinary-looking white guys, an archetype commonly featured and glorified in popular culture, do not comport with such an image.