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]