opinion   |   column

Rape at a church camp reveals flaws in justice system



A man in Oklahoma was unjustly spared from receiving a prison sentence for the brutal rape and sodomy of a thirteen-year-old girl and using an inanimate objects to rape the girl. Benjamin Petty will, instead, be serving 15 years of probation and must wear an ankle montior for two years after a guilty plea. 

The rape occurred at Falls Creek church camp in Davis, Oklahoma, during the summer of 2016. Petty is now 36 and evading prison time because he is “legally blind.” NewsOK reports that the victim’s family agreed to  this plea negotiation.

Just when I thought we were making progress with the judicial system in regards to sexual assault, this plea deal makes me very nervous about the future. 

I do not believe being legally blind is a just enough reason to avoid prison time for this crime. The details of the rape involved him tying up the victim, which insinuates that he can see well enough to do that or has enough motor skill to make up for lack of vision. Regardless if he could see, he was aware of what he was doing when he committed the act.

To me, letting this man off with just probation is setting an unsettling precedent for future cases. 

Petty was not the only one brought to court in this case. The church that sponsored the Fall Creeks church camp was also a defendant in a pending lawsuit. 

The Country Estates Baptist Church of Midwest City and of Terrell employed Petty as a cook at the camp, which also claims to be the largest church camp in the United States, with over 50,000 participants. 

The attorneys for The Country Estates Baptist Church of Midwest City requested the option to question the victim, who is 13, about her previous “voluntary sexual experience.”

It is completely asinine to bring this line of questioning to a rape case, let alone that of a thirteen-year-old girl. The question is irrelevant, considering Petty had already plead guilty. The church does not believe they should be charged with any costs for her emotional and physical damage considering her sexual history because these damages could be be due to her prior sexual history.

The lawsuit against the church alleges the church did not properly do extensive research into who they were employing and how much access these employers had to their young campers. This is exactly what they are getting sued for and I hope the lawsuit goes through without any more problems.

This is the last hint of justice I can see happening for this young girl. Probation and registration on the sex offender’s list is not enough to make up for the emotional and physical damage that ensued after the rape. 

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