Although the #MeToo movement has helped change perspectives about sexual harassment and assault over the past year, much work still needs to be done. Many sexual assailants still receive lenient punishments—if they’re punished at all. And the latest example is a former Baylor University student and fraternity president who will only face probation and a fine after being accused of rape.
Yesterday, December 10th, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that State District Judge Ralph Strother accepted a plea deal from Jacob Walter Anderson, who was expelled from Baylor and charged with four counts of sexual assault after allegedly raping a 19-year-old woman at a fraternity party in 2016. Anderson was offered the deal in October, and he agreed to plead guilty to a (much less severe) charge of felony restraint. As a result, the accused rapist will not have to serve any jail time or have to register as a sex offender.
Instead of prison, Anderson’s plea deal involves three years of probation, a $400 fine, and mandatory counseling. According to the Star-Telegram, if he complies with the conditions of his probation, the conviction will not go on his criminal record.
NBC News reports that at the hearing on December 10th, Anderson’s alleged victim told Strother that she was “devastated by your decision to let my rapist Jacob Walter Anderson go free.”
Anderson’s accuser said that she began to feel ill after drinking some punch at the 2016 college party, and claims Anderson then took her outside and sexually assaulted her. Anderson’s plea deal has sparked outrage in the community, and as of December 11th, 89,407 people had signed a petition, started by Baylor student Erin Albin, that protests the decision.
In an email to the accuser’s parents, obtained by the Star-Telegram, McLennan County Assistant District Attorney Hilary LaBorde wrote that she initially offered the deal because she was afraid Anderson would not be found guilty in a jury trial. She added that she felt “our jurors aren’t ready to blame rapists and not victims when there isn’t concrete proof of more than one victim.”
This is not only a huge miscarriage of justice for the victim, but potentially puts other women at risk in the future. If you feel strongly about this issue, you can sign the protest petition here.