A high school boy charged with raping 3 middle school girls got 45 days in a youth home. The victims are outraged as he may return to their school.
One by one, he charmed them.
Three middle school girls, two of them only 12 years old, totally smitten with the high school lacrosse player who was paying attention to them and wanted to be their friend.
During his freshman and sophomore years, the Brighton High School student Snapchatted the girls, used terms like "baby girl" and "princess," listened to their problems and played the trusting, big brother. As one of the girls’ parents noted, “He seemed like a polite young man.”
He manipulated them all.
In Livingston County Juvenile Court last spring, the bushy-haired, 6-foot-tall athlete was charged with 20 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct on charges of raping the three girls on multiple occasions when he was 14 and 15 years old. Prosecutors said he used his size to overcome them and manipulated events and the girls to get what he wanted.
A 12-year-old girl was raped in a ditch behind a Brighton movie theater, they said. Another 12-year-old ran barefoot in the snow to a neighbor's house to escape him when he tried to rape her a third time.
And he used the same scheme with each girl: He sexually assaulted them, returned to their houses days later to apologize, then raped them again, prosecutors said. One victim said he threatened to kill himself if she told anyone what happened. Another said he threatened suicide if she refused to see him.
Rumors quickly spread at school. The girls were called sluts and liars. One attempted suicide. Another dropped out of school for a while.
But after months of enduring name-calling and judgmental stares — including taunting by the boy's mother — the young victims are speaking up, especially given the latest turn of events in the criminal case.
Last month, the now-16-year-old boy was sentenced by a juvenile court referee to 45 days in a youth facility after pleading guilty to one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct as part of a plea agreement. Had he been charged as an adult, he would have faced up to life in prison.
His punishment has the victims reeling. They had hoped he would be placed in a lockdown, residential treatment center for sex offenders for a year — with a follow-up evaluation — as was stipulated in his plea agreement.
Perhaps more alarming, the victims and their parents say, is that the now-16-year-old boy could return to school as early as this week. He has an evaluation hearing on Monday in juvenile court, though the girls pleaded with the Brighton School Board last month to expel him.
Adding to their frustration is the fact that his name will not be added to the public sex offender registry list because he was charged as a juvenile, which means no one but police will know about his rape conviction.
None of this makes sense to the victims and their families, who believe the criminal justice system has let them down over and and over again.
“I feel betrayed,” one of the victims told the Free Press last week, stressing she feels as if her attacker “has more rights than we do.”
“I’m hurt,” she said. “He made me question myself. He made me hate myself. But now I know that I’m strong. … I know I’m not to blame for this.”
And she refuses to hide in the dark. So do the others.
Bolstered by the recent explosion of sexual harassment complaints against celebrities and politicians, the three girls and their mothers are taking a stand and publicly speaking out about their painful experiences. They want their faces seen. They want their stories told.
"It's gone faceless for so long and it's easy to forget about," one victim's mother, Ashley, said of sexual assault. "When you put a face to it — it's real."
By Grayson Schmidt, Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org