DoJ report on Montana justice: Don't get raped in Missoula, even if you're only five years old

[Trigger warning]

A letter from the Department of Justice to the Missoula County Attorney's Office in Montana concludes that the state's police and prosecutors ignore and downplay rape complaints, intimidate and blame rape victims, and, most damning, that prosecutors decline to bring cases against accused rapists even when there is an abundance of evidence against them -- including confessions.

Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg says they're lying. The DoJ says that Van Valkenburg's stalled and ignored their investigation, and failed to reply to more than half a dozen requests for meetings and details. The DoJ reports says that one of the rape victims they investigated was only five years old, and the adolescent boy who assaulted her was sentenced to two years of community service; the prosecutor allegedly told the victim that "boys will be boys."

According to the Justice Department's letter, in one instance, a deputy county attorney in Missoula allegedly quoted religious passages to a woman who'd reported sexual assault "in a way that the victim interpreted to mean that the Deputy County Attorney was judging her negatively for have made the report." In another case, the Justice Department spoke to a woman whose daughter was sexually assaulted, at the age of five, by an adolescent boy, who was sentenced to two years of community service for the crime. A prosecutor handling the case allegedly told the mother that "boys will be boys." Another sexual-assault victim discussing prosecution options was allegedly told by a deputy county attorney, "All you want is revenge."

The Justice Department reported that some women claimed they declined to pursue prosecution because of negative reports they'd heard about the prosecutor's office. A young woman who was gang-raped as a student at the University of Montana allegedly told the DOJ that her friend decided not to report her own rape to the police or prosecutors after hearing about her experience dealing with the prosecutor's office. In another case, a clinical psychologist who had counseled numerous sexual-assault survivors in Missoula allegedly told the Justice Department that after she, herself, was sexually assaulted, she was reluctant to have her case prosecuted, given the "horrendous" stories she'd heard.

Montana Prosecutor Allegedly Told Mother of 5-Year-Old Sexual-Assault Victim That "Boys Will Be Boys" [Dana Liebelson/Mother Jones]

Notable Replies

  1. rider says:

    The title alone is a trigger so putting the silly and useless trigger warning after the title makes no sense.

    You have either already triggered someone or the the title serves as a warning to whomever would be triggered.

  2. In other news, Montana leads the list of safest U.S. states for women; amazingly, no rapes have occurred there in decades.

  3. bwv812 says:

    Great headline! But if Montana is out, then what state does the DoJ recommend getting raped in?

  4. Maybe they are the type of people who don't want to punish you if you haven't hurt anyone.

    DUI laws are pre-emptive punishment for potentially harmful behavior. If you actually do hurt someone, there will be additional charges, not just DUI.

    If it came down to guns .vs. butter, I think I'd rather save punishment for people who cause harm, instead of exhausting my resources looking for people who've made bad decisions that have a high chance of causing harm. But apparently we have limitless resources to devote to punishments; after all, we can always rip more money out of public assistance and education budgets, right? So I guess everything's OK.

    NOTE: The above is an exercise in open-mindedness, rather than an attempt to defend Montana or her citizens, or any sort of plea for repeal of DUI laws. Please do not send the police to my house to brutally punish me for my thoughtcrimes!

  5. Vnend says:

    Is there a point at which the prosecutor(s) become accessories after the fact? Disbarred because of a failure to do their job? Something?

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