Savannah Dietrich: Kentucky Girl Faces Jail Time for Exposing Men Who Sexually Assaulted Her

Posted on July 23, 2012

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It sounds crazy, but it’s true.

In Kentucky, a 17-year old sexual assault victim faces jail time for publicly naming via Twitter the boys who sexually assaulted her and distributed pictures of the attack one year ago. Savannah Dietrich of Louisville told the Courier Journal that she believed a plea deal given to the boys was not harsh enough and that naming the boys was an act of justice.

“There you go, lock me up,” Dietrich tweeted. “I’m not protecting anyone that made my life a living Hell.”

She continued: “They said I can’t talk about it or I’ll be locked up…So I’m waiting for them to read this and lock me up. ____ justice.”

“Protect rapist is more important than getting justice for the victim in Louisville.”

Although the boys have not yet been sentenced, Dietrich and her parents feel that the recommended sentence (which was not reported in the story) was “too light,” the Courier Journal reported.

“I was crying as she (the judge) was reading that,” Dietrich said. “They got off very easy … and they tell me to be quiet, just silencing me at the end.”

Reaction to the story has been mostly outrage at the idea that a 17-year old sexual assault victim could be punished for naming her attackers, who pled guilty to charges of first degree sexual assault and misdemeanor voyeurism.

Several petitions have already been created on Change.org to have the charges against Dietrich dropped.

Hundreds if not thousands of people on Twitter have expressed their outrage, with many tweets sounding something like this:

“Kentucky – stupid that you’d rather protect rapists than let Savannah Dietrich live her life,” written by @jesssizzle27

And this:

“I got an idea…let’s turn loose rapists and put the victim in jail! Sounds pretty liberal to me!” posted by @melodeeaaron

HelloGiggles.com, an online magazine co-published by actor Zooey Deschanel, put up a post praising Dietrich’s actions. In it, writer Julia Gazdag argues that although “the boys have a right to confidentiality while the court case is technically still in progress,” and adding that “This protective measure is a pretty standard one in the U.S. legal system, and from an ethics standpoint makes a lot of sense,” Dietrich was nonetheless in the right to go against the confidentiality order and publicly name her attackers because she felt the attackers got a “slap on the wrist.”

Although the exact crime committed nor the sentence the assailants were given has not been reported, the outrage continues over what is believed to be an injustice. There’s no argument that a crime hasn’t been committed. The boys in question pled guilty. However, they were charged with “first degree sexual abuse,” which in Kentucky is defined this way:

510.110 Sexual abuse in the first degree.
(1) A person is guilty of sexual abuse in the first degree when:
(a) He or she subjects another person to sexual contact by forcible compulsion; or
(b) He or she subjects another person to sexual contact who is incapable of consent because he or she:
1. Is physically helpless;
2. Is less than twelve (12) years old; or
3. Is mentally incapacitated

There’s no doubt any of these activities are horrible and deserved to be punished as much as legally possible, but the point is that based on this definition, nobody knows what happened except for people involved in the case.

Next point: it has been reported over and over again that the sentence the boys were recommended (not given because they haven’t been sentenced yet) has not been released to the public. And Dietrich did not say what the recommended sentence was in the Courier Journal article, so the general public has no way of measuring the lightness of the sentence. Also, the recommended sentence is just that: recommended. The judge can do what he or she pleases within the law. It could be a heavier sentence or a lighter sentence. But the point is, we have no idea what the sentence is because it has not yet been handed down.

And finally, the story, through bloggers and comments, has been framed as a young woman being punished for naming her attackers. However, that is not the case. Attorneys for the young men who assaulted Dietrich have asked the court to hold Dietrich in contempt for violating “the confidentiality of a juvenile hearing and the court’s order not to speak of it,” the Courier-Journal reported. However, the court has not actively charged Dietrich with any wrongdoing. The attorneys have only asked that the court does charge her.

So here he have a viral story with very little information and a whole lot of outrage. That being said, Dirty South News would like to put forth its opinion on the matter: Dietrich should be allowed to say whatever she wants and should not face any criminal charges. She was attacked. The attackers pled guilty. She should be allowed to share her story if she wants to, including naming the people who committed the crime against her.

The idea that she should be punished for outing the names of the people who attacked her is absurd. Even if one argues that because of the juvenile status of the criminals, their names should be protected, the same “juvenile protection” logic should be applied to Dietrich for outing her attackers on Twitter.

So, we at Dirty South News hope that the Louisville, KT courts decide not to hold Dietrich in contempt and punish the young men who attacked her in a just manner. However,the outraged public needs to take a deep breath and wait until they have enough information to be outraged. Without knowing the crime or the punishment, it is difficult and foolish to have an opinion. The only acceptable opinion to have is whether or not Dietrich has the right to out the names of the people who attacked her after they pled guilty in a court of law, which we think she does.

We would also like to ask that people remember that rape is a very serious accusation and tends to rightfully cause immediate fury when it is ever heard about. And although the young men in this case have pled guilty and there are pictures of their crime, erasing any doubts over their innocence, there have been many cases in which men accused of rape were not guilty and suffered severely as the result of people jumping the gun to punish them. Examples of men wrongly accused of rape who have spent several years in prison can be read about here, here, and here.

Just visit the Innocence Project and look at the long, long list of men wrongly accused of a crime and later exonerated – many of them are for rape.

So while it is crucial that we, as a society, continues to punish sexual crimes, me must learn from our mistakes and not rush to punish anybody accused of a crime because of our misinformed emotions. The young men who attacked Dietrich are not innocent by their own admittance, but many others have been, yet suffered because of people rushing to cast judgment.

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Posted in: Crime, Politricks