What’s the Punishment for Raping a 14-Year-Old Girl? Apparently, Not Jail Time

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?

Take Action

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.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jerome S
Jerome S10 months ago


Jim Ven
Jim Ven10 months ago

thanks for sharing.

Dale O.

One issue is how there are some judges in the judicial system that allow violent rape to go, for all intents and purposes, unpunished except for some mild inconveniences for the perpetrator.

These sorts of double standards can permeate much of society, such as how the halls of higher learning often ignore rape by members of football teams and the like and of course how some judges seem to turn a blind eye to the violence of rapists. This means that there are those who can get away with the violence of rape for all intents and purposes. Some can avoid jail time, getting off Scot free for acts of violence. All they have to do is to find a judge that is more than willing to perpetuate the rape culture by giving it their tacit approval via light sentences. Rape-lite. Some in society, including judges still continue to drink the kool-aid of treating the violent act of rape lightly.

Scott haakon
Scott haakon4 years ago

No I decided not to pursue any ill thought out petition. I think there is not enough evidence of violence. I do not support statutory "rape" as a law as in many state there is no defense. A young women could have a false ID be in a 21 bar,commit fraud and get away Scot free. But in any other offense she would be looking at long probation,restitution,jail time etc. It is time women were held to the same standards of fraud that men or anyone else(same goes for under age males)would be..

barb p.
Past Member 4 years ago


Antonella C.
Antonella C4 years ago

only 291 signatures? so bad! ☹

Hazel G.
Hazel G4 years ago

This is so wrong - he's getting a slap on the wrists and nothing more. Pathetic, and not good enough in terms of justice. I hope the survivor can rebuild her life anyway, and obviously jail time wouldn't erase the damage, but I bet it would make her feel a little safer. Put him in prison!

Alicia Guevara
Alicia Guevara4 years ago

Petition signed... and I agree with "they just don’t care about the victim at all". :(

Scott haakon
Scott haakon4 years ago

It seems that there is a lack of life experiences. If you had time to see that many of these girls are not forcibly raped but willing and consensual actors you would see it very differently. Worse there are few areas where the actions of the minor are ever questioned. Such as fraud; such as using false ID,getting "friends" to sneak into 21 clubs regardless of the damage done. Had you knowledge of the law. There would be the understanding that in many jurisdictions there is no defense. Most do not know this nor the historical reasons. We are not given the law.

They are never called on their behavior by the law. Now if they assaulted someone or shop lifted then the law takes notice.




Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago