ISU Professor talks Stanford rape case

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An Illinois State University faculty member is speaking out about a Stanford University rape case that has drawn national outrage.

That case involves a Stanford University student who was convicted of raping an unconscious woman and was sentenced to six months in county jail and probation. That sentence, coupled with statements by the convicted man’s father and others have drawn the ire of those who say they show privilege at play in the justice system and poor treatment of sexual assault victims.

Shelly Clevenger, an assistant professor of criminal justice at ISU who studies sex offenses and victimology wrote about the role of “victim blaming” in rape cases in a reflection shared with media outlets by ISU’s media relations office:

“The lenient sentence in the Stanford rape case was very shocking and upsetting to the nation as many felt that justice was not served for the victim. It definitely was not. The reality is that for sexual assault victims, many do not receive justice. Sexual assault is one of the most heinous crimes that can be committed against another human being, yet it is one in which the system and society most often fails in delivering any form of justice. Many victims do not report their assault out of fear of retaliation from the offender and/or the fear that they will be blamed or ostracized if they come forward. Those that are brave enough to report may experience blame or mistreatment by the system or society. They also are often devastated when the charges are dropped against the offender, the offender accepts a plea deal for a lesser crime or they are found not guilty at trial. Even when offenders are convicted, the sentence is often not reflective of the brutality of the crime. The reason for this is that sexual assault is often regarded as a crime in which the victim played some part. Questions such as, “What were you wearing?” or “Were you drinking?” or “Are you sure you didn’t consent?” asked to the victim imply that their behavior somehow impacted their sexual assault. This mentality is why we see lenient sentences handed out to offenders, not just in the Stanford rape case but in many cases. It will not be until we stop implicating the victim that there will be more of an opportunity for justice to be served for sexual assault victims.”

 Clevenger also addressed what critics call the leniency of the sentence in the case:

“The lenient sentence in the Stanford rape case was very shocking and upsetting to the nation as many felt that justice was not served for the victim. It definitely was not. The reality is that for sexual assault victims, many do not receive justice. Sexual assault is one of the most heinous crimes that can be committed against another human being, yet it is one in which the system and society most often fails in delivering any form of justice. Many victims do not report their assault out of fear of retaliation from the offender and/or the fear that they will be blamed or ostracized if they come forward. Those that are brave enough to report may experience blame or mistreatment by the system or society. They also are often devastated when the charges are dropped against the offender, the offender accepts a plea deal for a lesser crime or they are found not guilty at trial. Even when offenders are convicted, the sentence is often not reflective of the brutality of the crime. The reason for this is that sexual assault is often regarded as a crime in which the victim played some part. Questions such as, “What were you wearing?” or “Were you drinking?” or “Are you sure you didn’t consent?” asked to the victim imply that their behavior somehow impacted their sexual assault. This mentality is why we see lenient sentences handed out to offenders, not just in the Stanford rape case but in many cases. It will not be until we stop implicating the victim that there will be more of an opportunity for justice to be served for sexual assault victims."

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