Cherice Morales is Dead; Former Teacher & Rapist To Spend Only 30 Days in Jail
Sara Luckey | On 28, Aug 2013
Trigger warning for discussion of rape and suicide.
Cherice Morales is dead, and her rapist, Stacey Rambold, will spend a mere 30 days in jail.
It’s a story we’ve heard before, over and over again, so many times now that it starts to feel like we are being beaten with it. This story, this lie, perpetuates itself in our homes and our courtrooms, taking countless victims and turning them into antagonists, trying to make you believe they are responsible for the crimes committed against them. The lie is one you have heard before: An older man rapes a young girl and the young girl is blamed for the rape, deemed to be in control of the situation. As this lie gets told you will hear similar details in each re-telling: She seemed older than her biological age, and, being that she was so in control of the situation, shouldn’t the public shaming of her rapist be enough punishment for him?
In 2004, when Stacey Rambold was hired to teach Business at Senior High School in Yellowstone County, Principal Scott Anderson had to meet with him to discuss allegations that he had touched a student’s waist and thigh. The red flags were there from the beginning. But it wasn’t until 2008 that then-51-year-old Stacey Rambold raped 14-year-old Cherice Morales. He raped her three times that we know of. While the case was pending trial in 2010 and three weeks before her 17th birthday, Cherice Morales committed suicide. Her mother says that the rapes by her teacher were a ‘major factor’ in her death.
So what happened to her rapist? Pretty much nothing. Stacey Rambold was given a 15 year sentence, but will only be serving 30 days of it as the rest was suspended and he was given credit for 1 day served. This piddling sentence was handed out even after Rambold failed to meet the requirements for his sex offender treatment program. Rambold had stopped attending meetings, was having unsupervised visits with minors, and having sex with a woman and did not inform his counselors. Despite all this, despite him raping a child, despite lying to his counselors, despite him still placing himself in the presence of minor children, Judge Baugh decided that Cherice Morales was responsible for her own rape and that Baugh did not need to serve any lengthy jail time. He said she was “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold. and that she was “older than her chronological age.”
The age of consent in Montana is 16. There is no possible way that a 14 year old child who cannot legally consent to sex and who was operating within the power differential of teacher/student could have been in control of ‘the situation’ with Rambold. Responsible adult men do not have sex with children. Responsible judges do not blame children for their own rapes. However one might feel about Morales’ maturity, the fact is that she was chronologically 14, and no mental gymnastics or wishful thinking on the part of the defense can change the reality of the situation. She was not able to consent to sex, there was a power imbalance at play, and she was a child.
So Cherice Morales is dead, and her rapist is serving a 30 day sentence. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Yellowstone County, a man convicted of Horse Abuse was sentenced to 5 years in jail and a $5,000 fine.