**NOTE: If you wish to comment on this post, this is required reading first.**
I saw this over the weekend, but had no time to write about it until today.
17-year-old sexual assault victim could face charges for tweeting names of attackers
A Kentucky girl who was sexually assaulted could face contempt of court charges after she tweeted the names of her juvenile attackers.
Savannah Dietrich, the 17-year-old victim, was frustrated by a plea deal reached late last month by the two boys who assaulted her, and took to Twitter to expose them–violating a court order to keep their names confidential.
“There you go, lock me up,” Dietrich tweeted after naming the perpetrators. “I’m not protecting anyone that made my life a living Hell.”
Attorneys for the attackers asked a Jefferson District Court judge to hold Dietrich in contempt for lashing out on Twitter. She could face up to 180 days in jail and a $500 fine if convicted. The boys have yet to be sentenced for the August 2011 attack.
“So many of my rights have been taken away by these boys,” Dietrich told Louisville’s Courier-Journal. “I’m at the point, that if I have to go to jail for my rights, I will do it. If they really feel it’s necessary to throw me in jail for talking about what happened to me as opposed to throwing these boys in jail for what they did to me, then I don’t understand justice.”
Dietrich was assaulted by the pair after passing out at a party. They later shared photos of the assault with friends.
“For months, I cried myself to sleep,” Dietrich said. “I couldn’t go out in public places.”
On June 26, the boys pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual abuse and misdemeanor voyeurism. Terms of their plea agreement were not released.
“They got off very easy,” Dietrich, who says she was unaware of the plea agreement before it was announced in court, said in her interview with the newspaper.
“They said I can’t talk about it or I’ll be locked up,” Dietrich tweeted after hearing, according to the paper. “So I’m waiting for them to read this and lock me up.”
Let me just highlight some key points of this story.
- A seventeen year old girl is drinking at a party with “friends,” and passes out. Cold.
- Two of these “friends,” also age seventeen, sexually assault her while she is unconscious.
- They take pictures of the girl while she is being assaulted so they can show their friends later (and presumably to enjoy reliving the event at their leisure).
- The victim eventually finds out about the assault and the pictures, and presses charges.
- The attackers plead guilty. The sentencing terms are not yet released, but the victim is outraged at the leniency. Other press accounts imply that the sentence includes no jail time.
- The judge orders the proceedings sealed, including the names of the attackers.
- The girl says, “If they really feel it’s necessary to throw me in jail for talking about what happened to me as opposed to throwing these boys in jail for what they did to me, then I don’t understand justice.” She tweets their names.
- She now faces fines and jail time for contempt of court.
Aside from every other injustice visited upon the victim here, her First Amendment rights are now being trampled—and she is having none of it. Let us recall that these are not “accused” rapists who are presumed innocent. They are admitted rapists. They pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual abuse.
A hearing for the contempt of court charge is scheduled for July 30. Attorneys for Dietrich want it open to the media, while the boys lawyers want it closed.
Both the Gannett-owned Courier-Journal and Dietrich’s attorneys “have filed motions to open the proceedings, arguing she has a First Amendment right to speak about what happened in her case,” the newspaper said.
“[She] should not be legally barred from talking about what happened to her,” Gregg Leslie, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told the Associated Press. “That’s a wide-ranging restraint on speech.”
Rape and sexual assault are notoriously underreported: 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail, and 54% of sexual assaults are not even reported to police. It is no mystery why. Savannah Dietrich sums it up nicely here:
“[Protecting rapists] is more important than getting justice for the victim in Louisville,” she added.
If it were only Louisville, that would be bad enough. But it isn’t.
There’s a petition asking the judge to throw out the charges against Dietrich. Please sign it if you are so inclined.
Now if you will please excuse me, I need to call my doctor to inquire about some emergency medical intervention for my blood pressure.
*REMINDER: If you wish to comment on this post, this is required reading first.*