The signs said it all: “Rape is rape.” And, “Stop blaming victims.’’
About 80 people gathered Friday on the county courthouse steps in Butte to protest a Billings’ judge’s decision to give a man convicted of raping a teen a 30-day jail sentence.
The impromptu rally — organized by Commissioner Bill Andersen less than 24 hours before — called for the resignation of District Judge G. Todd Baugh, who recently created a national outrage.
The protesters’ chants made it even clearer: “No way, it’s not OK, Judge Baugh, you suck at law.”
Butte attorney Mike Andersen, who also attended the rally in Billings, spoke at the Butte rally saying that lawyers and others in the legal system need to speak out against Baugh’s sentence.
“This is not how the legal system is supposed to work,” Andersen said.
Baugh sentenced former Billings’ teacher Stacey Rambold, 54, to 30 days in jail for raping a 14-year-old girl. The judge justified the sentence by suggested the girl was “older than her chronological age” and had some control in the relationship. Baugh has since apologized for the statements, but maintains the sentence is appropriate.
The victim’s mother, Auliea Hanlon, has dismissed the judge’s apology as insincere.
Hanlon’s daughter committed suicide at age 16 while Rambold’s case was still pending.
Melody Rice of Butte, who attended the rally, works in the mental health profession and knows how victims of sexual abuse suffer.
“It causes severe PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and it takes years, even decades to recover from sexual assault,” Rice said.
She said people who have been sexually assaulted or raped carry around shame and guilt even though they are victims.
Mike Andersen noted that under Montana law it is illegal for an adult to have a sexual relationship with someone under age 16. A 14-year-old cannot consent to sex.
“Rape is rape in Montana,” Andersen said.