On June 2, Gov. Mike Parson called for “law and order” on the streets — but what if civil unrest lies in the home? This month, a troubling injustice occurred in Webster County, Missouri, where two brothers pleaded guilty to repeated raping their 13-year-old sister but walked free.

Webster County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Berkstresser offered them a plush deal: not a single day in prison. Instead, each brother accepted 100 hours of community service, a $250 fine and an apology letter.

The prosecuting attorney lamented that the brothers “would’ve been eaten alive in the state prison system.” After all, they were “much younger than their age.” Meanwhile, their sister gave birth to a child just after her thirteenth birthday.

In 2016, the infamous Brock Turner received only a six-month prison sentence for sexual assault. According to his judge, more prison time would have a “severe impact” on his life. But the Webster County case is worse. While Turner never pleaded guilty, the rapists in Webster County admitted guilt. There is no question of innocence. They raped their sister. And now, they’re free.

I grew up in Columbia and am a proud graduate of MU. Over my life, I’ve had the pleasure to see most of the state and take great pride in calling it home.

As a second-year student at Berkeley Law, I’ve learned how prosecutors can make or break justice, and I was troubled to hear of this flagrant case of injustice back home. I saw the headline from my desktop in California: “Amish Brothers Plead Guilty in Sex Abuse of Relative; No Jail Time.”

Unsurprisingly, the Webster County brothers violated probation and made contact with their child-sister within days. Finally, after a trial, conviction and time back home, the brothers may face prison time.

If Missouri truly favors justice, Webster County officials must be held accountable for their abuse of power. If convicted rapists are free to return to their homes without consequential punishment, how will we show support to survivors? How will they recover from the trauma of their abuse?

Now, like the Brock Turner case, the world is watching. What will Missouri show them?

Ashleigh Atasoy is a Rock Bridge High School graduate, an alumna of MU and studying law.


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