Outrage is bubbling up all across social media over the Mother Jones story involving a man who was convicted of repeatedly raping a teen girl, yet received no prison time.
The case of Austin Smith Clem, a 25-year-old man who reportedly raped a then 14-year-old girl twice, then once more four years later when she turned 18, has underscored one of the largest issues when it comes to trying cases of sexual assault — the potential leniency in punishment available to judges. Despite the jury deciding after a quick deliberation that Clem was guilty, he was only sentenced to two years in a community program for “nonviolent, low-level offenders who are ‘likely to maintain a productive and law-abiding life,’” and he is required to register as a sex-offender and pay fines. He will be on probation afterwards.
The program for “non-violent” offenders seems inappropriate based on the victim’s testimony that she remained silent for so long after the attacks because Clem had threatened to kill her family if she told anyone about his assault. Clem’s attorney, Dan Totten, argued that Clem’s actions weren’t violent, that the allegations that the rapes were “forcible” were wrong and even insinuated that the victim was actually retaliating because Clem wasn’t willing to have a relationship with her.
Totten also claimed Clem’s sentence has him suffering greatly. “[Clem's] lifestyle for the next six years is going to be very controlled…If he goes to a party and they’re serving beer, he can’t say, ‘Can I have one?’ If he wanted to go across the Tennessee line, which as the crow flies is eight or nine miles from his house, and buy a lottery ticket, he can’t do that…It’s not a slap on the wrist,” Totten told Mother Jones.
Sadly, lenient sentences for rapists, even those who rape teens, are becoming almost commonplace. As Think Progress notes, it was just a few months ago that a Montana judge gave a rapist a virtual slap on the wrist punishment because he felt the 14-year-old victim was somehow complicit in her own attack.
Yet while judges seem to be actively groping for reduced sentences and less punishment when it comes to sexual assault on teens, others are using teen rape as a rallying point for trying to restrict abortion access and emergency contraception.
A new push from anti-choice activists who are dismayed that teens can buy Plan B over the counter without their parents’ permission has them arguing that emergency contraception should not be available anywhere to anyone, in order to protect teens from “rapists.”
“While Sudafed could be used to create methamphetamine, Plan B could be used to cover up rape,” writes Christine Rousselle for the conservative website Townhall. “Every state has an age of consent for sexual activity—a young teen buying Plan B may in fact be the victim of statutory rape.”
The ploy of allegedly caring about teen rape victims, at least when it comes to stopping them from getting abortions, is an ongoing one, and it’s escalating as more groups try to use these girls to cut off services or close off clinics. Yet on a case by case basis, when there is an actual chance to punish a criminal who did in fact harm a teen, there is nothing but silence. Why aren’t the same organizations who say they want to protect women and girls up at arms when a real perpetrator of harm is walking away with no more than a slap on the wrist?
Could it be that in reality, they just don’t care about the victim at all?
Austin Smith Clem’s lenient punishment is horrifying. Please sign and share Care2′s petition to make this rapist accountable and punished for raping a 14-year old girl.
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