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Something I Thought We All Agreed On: Protecting Children

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Trigger Warning: This column deals with the allegations of sexual abuse of minors for decades in the neighboring burg of Miles City. Some of you have reached out to me asking when the Southeastern Montana voice on The Montana Post will tackle this subject — I ask that anyone agreeing with the assessments laid out here contacts their representation to help prevent this from ever happening to any other children. 

Few in Montana can claim they are unaware of the sports trainer tragedy that exploded out of Miles City fall of 2018. One would have to be living under a rock to miss the national coverage. You can read about the 32 survivors involved in the case (with the potential of “hundreds” of other survivors) in a detailed Buzzfeed piece, or the extensive Billings Gazette coverage, ESPN, or countless regional and statewide publications.

These survivors are telling the truth.

They are believed.

The athletic trainer admitted to part of the abuse on the air to the Billings Gazette news, and is attempting to plead guilty to the federal charges of using the internet to entice young boys.

This man is GUILTY and a predator.

So why is justice not being served for the dozens of the Miles City survivors? Because the statute of limitations for civil and criminal cases in Montana is not retroactive and does not extend indefinitely into the future. There’s a deadline.

The clock has run out on their opportunity for justice.

Thankfully, we are in a legislative session right now and can easily fix this egregious oversight. Initially, multiple bills were making their way through the legislature in January and February — bills that mirror other states’ legislative fixes to this problem. Powerful testimony shook Helena (do yourself a favor and watch). Justice seemed a senate transmittal and governor’s signature away…

Enter Representative Bill Mercer (R-HD46).

I don’t know what bee has gotten in Mercer’s bonnet, but apparently the bee is big enough and scary enough that he has chosen insurance companies over the health and safety of our children. I cannot imagine his constituents agree with his choice to elevate faceless corporations over the youth of our state, but here we are. Mercer was proud to torpedo the legislative fixes and instead is “compromising” on an emaciated version that leaves an expiration date on justice for youth sexual assault survivors. Some compromise.

So here we are – Transmittal Break is here and Miles City’s cries for justice and protection for past youth victims and empowerment for future survivors is met with a Legislative “meh”.

I’ve had my differences with the MTGOP; we don’t see eye to eye on many issues. But kids. I always thought when it came to the crisis of youth sexual assault and protecting our most vulnerable, our children, we were on the same side. It would appear not. The MTGOP is perfectly fine allowing Mercer the clout to destroy the fully functional bill and replace it with a weakened gesture — justice has been again put off for Miles City and countless others.

One Representative isn’t enough to kill or salvage a bill — he had Party support in tanking this. 

Has the MTGOP as a whole chosen to side with insurance companies over kids? It would appear so.

Has the MTGOP decided to circle the wagons and protect one of their own — Fred Anderson (R-HD20) — who was a two decade principal at the Miles City school and this abuse happened right under his nose on his watch (there’s even a memo signed by Anderson that he was aware of complaints against the abuser!)? We can only assume so, as Anderson is still the representative for HD20 and is still making decisions on behalf of Montana’s youth. If the MTGOP wanted him out, he would be out.

MTGOP: It’s time to clean house. Clean up your Party Membership and Leadership.

It’s time to take a stand for children, for survivors, for Miles City and all of the other adults who still cannot come forward. This transcends Party affiliation and politics. It’s time to do the right thing.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Plains Feminist

Montana and national politics from a Southeastern Montana perspective, focusing on regional activism, womxn’s issues, LGBTQ equality, education, and revitalization of the Montana Democratic Party. Being a liberal east of Billings has unique and intense challenges, and Plains Feminist tries (sometimes fruitfully, sometimes not so much) to educate the hard-working folks who *eek* out a living on the “not mountains” side of the state. Plains Feminist enjoys intellectual banter over coffee or beer preferably after dark. You can reach her at [email protected]

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  • The Republican party is increasingly about only one thing: protecting powerful white men. Whatever they say in public, whatever they do in private has really only one goal, to pull up the drawbridge separating them from the rest of the world and to hunker down in their castle and wait out the rebellion against their rule. The world they have created is falling apart, slipping into ruin because of economic inequality, the climate crisis, and their routine abuse of power, including sexual abuse of women and children. Men like Mercer know that their grip on power is slipping and that their claim to any sort of legitimacy is gone, and so they embrace and protect even the most repellent characters because they know that if men like Trump and Jensen go down, they are next.

  • Sexual abuse wrecks lives. Every Montana child should be protected. And there should be justice for those who have already been affected.

  • It is the Montana GOP platform – page 4, Tort Reform: We are committed to pursuing tort reform legislation to ensure a more predictable legal climate and reduce the risks and costs of doing business. “reduce risks and costs” is insurance industry jargon for reducing or eliminating accountability and responsibility for the harms caused by institutions and businesses. For all their talk about constitutional fealty, too many in the GOP choose to ignore the U.S. 7th Amendment and Montana’s Art. II, Section 16.

    • Thank you for quoting this portion of the MTGOP Platform. It seems to reinforce the “choice” of prioritizing insurance companies and the “legal climate” over the safety and right to justice of not just the Miles City survivors, but ALL youth survivors in Montana; both historically and into the future. This also reinforces my original misconception that protecting children and ensuring predators are off the streets was a topic that transcends party political lines and platforms. The political parties are definitely NOT the same on this topic.

      Mercer appears to be Lead Dog in this sled race with the full backing of his political party. Which is something the MTGOP *should* be ashamed of, and should have quickly changed course to The Right Thing.

  • The non-retroactivity on criminal charges wasn’t an “oversight.” The US Constitution prohibits Congress and the states from enacting ex post facto laws.

    That said, Mercer is a walking conflict of interest. Would be nice if a reporter dug in to see how his bills and votes relate to his law firm’s clients.

    • I don’t mean to speak for the poster, but I suspect her argument is that the current law was an oversight, not that we should change the statute of limitations for previous crimes.

      Thanks for the comment.

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