Our view: Defense is indefensible

It is the job of attorneys to represent the interests of their clients, sometimes even when doing so casts doubt on their own ethics or morals.

But sometimes a line must be drawn.

Attorneys representing Terrebonne Parish have a tough task before them, protecting taxpayer interests against a civil suit brought by a young woman repeatedly raped over months by a ranking guard at the Juvenile Detention Center, whose director maintains was supposed to protect her.

There are many areas in which the parish’s interests can be legitimately advanced. Surveillance cameras and other safeguards, the parish contends, should have been enough to protect this young woman and other victims.

But attorneys have gone a step further and say any award given should be mitigated because the victim herself is partially to blame for the crimes committed against her, or possibly not be paid at all.

The contention is made clear not just in courtroom argument but in carefully worded briefs that leave no room for doubt. Its roots lie in the words of officials who excuse the defense by noting that the girls of the detention center are not necessarily like the girls who live next door to you. The problem is that they are the girls who live next door to all of us, and they are owed better.

This victim-blaming approach is being done in the name of us all, as a community, and it is reprehensible. In our community, which has a pioneering anti-child abuse program, where prosecutors routinely bring child molesters to justice, a mainstay of prosecution is the bright line in the law. The age of consent in Louisiana is 17, and no amount of legal wrangling can change that. To allow this to happen is to let the monsters among us have one more arrow in their quivers for future legal battles. Consent laws exist for a reason.

The idea that a child can consent to sex is the argument in chief favoring pedophiles as voiced by organizations as dastardly as the North American Man-Boy Love Association. For we as a parish to allow that argument to be used in order that a few dollars might be saved is unconscionable.

It’s good to know the parish has some toothy pit bulls in its legal stable. But allowing them to attack Mary Doe – a mere 14-year-old at the time of the crime – in this way allows them also to bite the hands of all who feed them.