Two 13-year-old boys in Tennessee pleaded guilty to raping a 15-year-old girl and were convicted, but the judge sentenced them to just six months’ probation.
The law as it’s written protects juvenile sex offenders from prosecution to the fullest extent, but the victim, her family and an incensed local state representative are working to change the law.
“I got raped,” said the victim, who has not been identified publicly, according to Fox 17 Nashville. She said she’s uncomfortable describing the scene one month ago when two boys she thought were friends held her down in a home as they raped her and filmed it.
“I didn’t want to say, because I was afraid nobody’s gonna believe me,” the victim said. But once she opened up to her parents, they immediately went to the police.
“I just always thought it would be, you know, kids being mean, teasing or fighting, but not rape,” her mother said told Fox 17.
“The only thing I really recall the police saying to me was essentially begging me to let them handle it,” her father said.
Police investigated and found the video evidence of the crime.
The two boys were tried in court and pleaded guilty. The judge sentenced one of the boys to six months’ probation. The other, who had a criminal history, was given six months’ probation but is required to serve it in the custody of the state.
“They pleaded guilty and said, ‘Yes, I did this thing,’ and then the sentencing guidelines mandate that they can go home,” the victim’s father said.
And, because they were under 14 years old, they were not placed on a sex offender registry.
The light sentence was attributed to the Juvenile Reform Act, which serves to protect minors from harsh sentences. In an email to the family, the assistant attorney general quoted several parts of the act.
“All of them [the police] did absolutely fantastic work until it came down to the moment where we were going to get something back by knowing that they would have at least some sort of punishment for the things they did to my daughter, and it couldn’t happen because of the way the law is written,” the victim’s dad told Fox 17.
State Rep. Jason Hodges heard of the injustice and is now working on two bills to try and change the law.
“Obviously, as a father, I was disgusted, and as a citizen of that community, I was disgusted,” he told Fox 17. “You know, rape is obviously a serious offense, and whether you’re 13 or 30 you should know better.”
One of Hodges’ bills would allow minors 13 and under to be charged as adults in the case of rape. The other would allow a judge to decide if he or she wished to put minors 13 and under on a sex offender’s registry.