MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin district attorney who prosecuted a sexual assault case involving two high school students has joined a wave of critics of a Republican lawmaker and his comments about rape.
When a Chetek Alert reporter asked state Rep. Roger Rivard in December to comment on the case in which a 14-year-old girl accused a 17-year-old boy of sexually assaulting her, the Rice Lake lawmaker said his father told him: “Some girls, they rape so easy.” Rivard said the comment was his father’s way of warning him that a woman could agree to sex but then later claim the act wasn’t consensual.
He issued a statement later that day saying his comments could be misconstrued and that he viewed rape as a horrible crime.
District Attorney Angela Beranek, who prosecuted the Barron County case, issued a statement Monday saying the attack was a serious act of aggression that lacked any element of consent.
“The public needs to know the case Rep. Rivard was speaking about was not a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ situation,” Beranek said in the statement. “This was a sex act perpetrated by force against the will of the victim. There was no consent.”
Messages seeking comment were left Tuesday on Rivard’s phone and at his legislative office in Madison. An email also was sent to his office.
The teenage boy in the Barron County case was charged with sexually assaulting the girl in the school band room. The girl told investigators she said “no” when the boy told her he wanted to have sex with her, but that he pinned her to the floor and sexually assaulted her.
The boy reached a deal with Beranek’s office in which he pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of fourth-degree sexual assault and was sentenced to 90 days in jail.
Beranek told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel there was no doubt the sex was forced. She said her office agreed to the plea deal in part to spare the girl from having to endure a trial.
Beranek said she was especially appalled by Rivard’s comments because they were made so soon after the incident, making the situation that much more difficult for the victim and those close to her.
“He does not understand victims of crime,” she said of the lawmaker. “I hope he doesn’t find himself in a situation where someone near and dear to him becomes a crime victim, because I think he would view this differently.”
A number of prominent Republicans, including vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, rescinded their endorsements of Rivard following his comments. Rivard also has lost the support of the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, the main campaign operation for Assembly Republicans. However, he continues to enjoy support from local Republicans, as well as Wisconsin Right to Life, Pro-Life Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and the National Federation of Independent Businesses-Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Family Action endorsed Rivard on Tuesday. He was among 45 candidates endorsed by the group, which opposes abortion and gay marriage and says it is committed to boosting family values.
In an interview, Wisconsin Family Action director Julaine Appling told the Journal Sentinel that her group endorsed Rivard because of his stance on issues. She declined to say whether the group considered withholding its endorsement because of his comments on rape or whether she thought his comments were appropriate.
“I have no comments on Roger’s comments,” Appling said.
Rivard faces Democratic challenger Stephen Smith in the Nov. 6 election.
Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com