The Associated Press has reported that a Kansas judge found that 13- and 14-year-old victims of sexual assault were partly responsible for the incident. The two girls were assaulted by a 67-year-old-man, whose sentence was reduced by the same judge.
Leavenworth County District Judge Michael Gibbens said that "the victims in this case, in particular, were more an aggressor than a participant in the criminal conduct." He then sentenced Raymond Soden to five years and ten months in prison, although prosecutors were seeking 13-plus years because Soden had prior convictions for both battery and sexual battery. Regardless, the sentence was eight years less than Kansas sentencing guidelines call for.
The judge said that the two girls had gone to Soden’s house voluntarily and had taken money for sexual favors. The judge questioned how much the victims were harmed. He referenced a statement where the 13-year-old girl told police she felt “uncomfortable” about an incident where physical contact had been initiated.
Gibbens asked, “And so she’s uncomfortable for something she voluntarily went to, voluntarily took her top off of, and was paid for?”
The prosecutors responded, “Yes, judge. She was also a 13-year-old who under our laws can’t consent to anything.”
The judge responded, “I wonder what kind of trauma there really was to this victim under those peculiar circumstances.”
The judge’s decision has caused outrage.
“These girls are minors, and are the victims, not the aggressors,” said Michelle Herman, president and CEO of Sunflower House, a child advocacy center. “Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. It doesn’t matter what the girls did or didn’t do, he is still the adult and nobody deserves to be taken advantage of sexually.”