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Why victims wait or don’t report

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As the investigation into the validity of sexual misconduct allegations against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh continued, stories on the outcome of adjudicated cases and real statistical data were reported. Those stories had nothing to do with the national debate, but it was difficult for many not to associate them.

Interesting, isn’t it, how what is happening with Kavanaugh could influence perception about the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl in Virginia. It shouldn’t, but it is — and not in a good way.

WTVR in Richmond, Va., reported recently that a former high school student who sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl will serve no active prison time. Logan Michael Osborn, 19, pleaded guilty to the charge of having carnal knowledge of the girl. At the time, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with eight years suspended, WTVR reported.

But Chesterfield Circuit Court Judge T.J. Hauler decided to pause the two-year term, saying that he wanted more time to review the case. He later declined to reinstate the original sentence.

Osborn, then a student at Cosby High School, sexually assaulted the 14-year-old girl after they attended a school play together. Prosecutors said Osborn went on a walk with the girl, who didn’t know the Cosby campus, and when the path ended at a fence, Osborn became aggressive. The prosecutor said he forced the 14-year-old onto her knees, then tied a belt around her neck and hands before the assault. Osborn released her around the time her mother was supposed to pick her up. The girl told her what happened during the ride home.

The prosecutor argued that Osborn had a history of sexual assault – at the age of 12 he was charged with grabbing a student’s genitals. Girls accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior on seven different occasions, the prosecutor said.

No jail time. Osborn will have to register as a sex offender and lost an academic scholarship to the University of Mary Washington. Presumably, the judge thought that was punishment enough.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette ran a story Tuesday about the number of rapes reported to university police or campus authorities increasing last year. The article also referenced the number of sexual assaults that go underreported on college campuses.

I shared the links to both stories on Facebook. Most people were outraged about the Virginia story, but one one woman’s observation was “maybe after 32 years then he can be punished,” which ties back to the time it took Kavanaugh’s accuser to come forward. A man’s observation: “well that’s a Supreme Court justice in the making.”

I had difficulty not thinking about the well-circulated audio/video clip of President Donald Trump boasting about grabbing women by the genitals — and the fact Americans elected him after hearing it. Even after being outraged over multiple sexual abuse and harassment allegations against former President Bill Clinton and Democrats still supporting him, Republicans who agreed with Trump’s political ideology had no problem electing him with that video playing in the background.

That’s the culture in which we live. People will support their candidate, regardless of what an ogre they are. And that’s a shame.

Meanwhile, the guy who sexually assaults his high school peer after a play gets by with it. And people wonder why some victims wait or never report crimes. They wait or don’t report sexual assaults because they see stories like Osborne’s where the perpetrator got by with it. They wait or don’t report because they live in a society where men are elected president, even though they boast about sexual assault or have credible allegations of it against them. They wait or don’t report because society, by its choices of candidates, condones the behavior.

Shea Wilson is the former managing editor of the El Dorado News-Times. E-mail her at melsheawilson@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @SheaWilson7.

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