Target: Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg, Montana
Goal: Demand that rape cases be handled without needless sexism
According to the United States Department of Justice, Missoula County, Montana has had an unfortunate track record of sexist behavior — especially when it comes to dealing with rape cases. In a 20-page letter addressed to attorney Fred Van Valkenburg, federal attorneys stated that there was “substantial evidence” that blatant sexism was responsible for prosecutors dropping nearly 70 rape cases in the past year. What’s more, is that the department is also being accused of belittling rape victims.
The most shocking case includes a woman of a five-year-old rape victim who was told that “boys will be boys,” after she asked why the adolescent boy who assaulted her daughter only received a punishment of two years of community service.
Also, its been revealed that in nearly every rape case that involved a physically disabled or mentally ill woman, prosecutors refused to pursue the claims further — even when the assaulter provided evidence, a confession or made incriminating statements. In the nearly four years since the investigation into the department began, only 16% of all reported rapes resulted in justice for the victim. One letter sent to a woman by an attorney read “all you want is revenge” as a sufficient answer to why he wouldn’t prosecute her alleged rapist.
Not only are rape cases being trivialized, but rape victims are also suffering from added ridicule by some attorneys. According to the Department of Justice’s report, another woman claimed that a deputy county attorney read religious passages to her causing her to feel even worse about the traumatic experience.
Missoula County’s persistent sexism cannot go on any longer. Not only are the women of Missoula being disrespected and re-victimized, but the county continues to treat rape like a minor, insignificant blip on the radar. Sign the petition to urge County Attorney Van Valkenburg to take rape cases seriously and prosecute rapists accordingly.
Dear County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg,
For years, the United States Department of Justice has been investigating claims that your department trivializes rape cases and perpetuates an unlawful sexism that is not only detrimental to your department, but to the lives of the women who are ignored, belittled and re-victimized when they seek justice from your prosecutors.
The substantial evidence mounting against you and other attorneys and prosecutors is disheartening and the statements made by members of your department are appalling. I encourage you to think, for one minute, that a close female friend, member of the family or even fellow attorney endured the ordeal of a sexual assault. Wouldn’t you want justice to be rightfully served? And wouldn’t you want the victim to be believed and treated respectfully after such a traumatic event?
Bible verses and impassive comments don’t belong in the court system. When a victim comes to you or any of your attorneys seeking justice and the rightful prosecution of her assaulter, she shouldn’t be made to feel like her voice means nothing or that her ordeal was a simple fabrication or misunderstanding.
Please, stop the needless sexism in your department.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: dualdflipflop via Flickr