In just the latest example of a male judge granting a lenient sentence for a sexual assault crime on a female, Valley County District Judge John McKeon sentenced a 40-year-old Montana man to 60 days in jail for raping his 12-year-old daughter. The father will only spend 43 days detained since the judge gave him credit for 17 days of jail time already served.
Viral reporting has ensued, as well as a Change.org petition to impeach Judge McKeon. The judge has since defended his sentencing by arguing that the father has tremendous family and community support. A social worker spoke on the father’s behalf in court, and the father’s church is behind him in getting treatment. The girl’s mother and grandmother also wrote to the judge to spare his punishment, in part because the father has two sons who still love him and they want him to be part of their lives.
In all the mainstream media, blogs and local news reports, there’s no discussion about the girl unless you scroll down to the comments section. Perhaps the press needs to protect the underage victim’s identity, but based on all available coverage, it appears that not only has the system failed the 12-year-old, but her community and family have too. The girl didn’t have anyone in court speak on her behalf besides the prosecutor.
The questions that linger about this case are:
How can a mother walk in on her husband sexually abusing their daughter, only then to write a letter supporting him? Does the daughter know these letters exist?
Is the daughter getting any kind of therapy? Does she have a healthy role model, outside the family, whom she can confide in?
Does this junior high student feel safe in a home with a family that appears to have sided with her rapist and not her?
Is the young girl getting blamed for the abuse?
Is this child going to have to face the father who raped her this upcoming Christmas? Will his parole officer and treatment specialist allow a visit since it’s the holidays?
Where is this girl’s support system?
I ask these hard questions because I know what it’s like to be the voiceless, and probably isolated, girl in Montana. My stepfather sexually abused me repeatedly when I was 13. My mother also chose to support him until she died.
It’s been 25 years since I went through what this girl in Montana is currently going through. I have so much to say to her, and children like her, but what I hope, at the very least, is that she has someone in her corner asking these questions if she herself isn’t asking them. If she is asking these types of questions, hopefully she has someone who will listen to her and protect her.
She’s going to need all the help she can get in about a month from now.