For anyone who follows the Idaho Legislature, it’s obvious that embarrassing antics at the Statehouse have become the norm.
The national media loves running stories that put Idaho in a laughable light and our lawmakers often can’t help but provide some fodder during their annual Boise rendezvous.
But the Idaho Legislature somehow found a troubling new low in its recent treatment of Jane Doe, the name that’s been given to the 19-year-old woman who accused state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger of raping her.
We can now add hostility toward rape victims to all those negative stereotypes presented by the national media about our state. It’s no exaggeration to say the treatment Doe received by many inside and outside the Statehouse has been downright ugly, cruel and even sinister.
How else can you describe people who would blast a rape victim’s name and photo all over the internet, who would identify her in an official legislative newsletter, who would force her to testify in person during a hearing and then offer no protection as she’s harrassed by an angry mob afterward?
This is what our Statehouse has become and it’s a disturbing and disgusting image of Idaho for the world to see.
Rather than offering anything resembling compassion toward Doe or at very least protecting her identity, the actions of everyone from state lawmakers to employees at the Statehouse to von Ehlinger’s supporters have ensured that future rape victims think twice about ever accusing a state lawmaker of sexual assault.
Pretty much everyone let Doe down.
Von Ehlinger obviously by his alleged actions in taking advantage of an intern who saw him as a mentor.
State Rep. Priscilla Giddings and many others for identifying Doe, distributing her photo and accusing her of being part of a “liberal smear job.” It was inhuman, and that’s putting it politely, how Giddings in brutal callousness used her legislative newsletter to identify Doe and then laughed at the rape victim during the Ethics Committee hearing. At least one state lawmaker showed more interest in investigating how Doe could be criminally charged for filing a false police report than in taking seriously her allegations of rape.
Then there are many of Doe’s fellow employees at the Statehouse who gave her the Scarlet Letter after her identity became known because of Giddings and company. Gov. Brad Little’s staff even allegedly treated Doe like kryptonite.
What were the members of the House Ethics Committee thinking when they required her to continue coming to work after her identity as von Ehlinger’s accuser had become known? Why did these same Ethics Committee members demand she testify in person at a hearing at which von Ehlinger would also testify?
It’s equally unthinkable that no one at the Statehouse thought of providing any security for Doe or even protected passage for her at the Capitol on the day she provided her testimony.
The result was that, following her testimony, Doe was accosted by an angry mob of von Ehlinger supporters. Her lawyers and former Statehouse intern Karen Smith were the only ones who protected her as she fell to the floor and the gauntlet closed in.
The angry crowd forced their way to her so they could capture photos and videos of her to post online.
Doe’s screams could be heard throughout the Statehouse but not even several state troopers who were present tried to help.
Her treatment was so insanely abhorrent that it’s almost as if it was intentional.
Doe feels as though it was all a concerted effort to destroy her.
Von Ehlinger has resigned though he admits no wrongdoing as Boise police continue to investigate Doe’s accusations.
Based on what happened to Doe, we wonder if there are other women with similar Statehouse internship experiences out there.
Boise police should investigate that possibility as well.
It’s hard to imagine a more heinous crime against a woman than rape and no woman deserves to be vilified and re-victimized for having the courage to report being sexually assaulted.
Doe deserved so much better from those at the Statehouse who somehow managed to make a nightmarish situation even worse for the young intern. Sadly our prediction is that they’re not done yet.
To her credit, Doe says she’s not going to go away. She’s demanding that the Legislature put in place policies to protect Statehouse interns.
Her experience shows that such safeguards are long overdue.
And along with establishing such policies, our state’s governor needs to apologize to Doe for the dehumanizing treatment she received during his watch.
He should feel as angry as the rest of us that our Statehouse has become a place where alleged sexual predators seem to be more protected than the women they victimize.