Opinion

Ohio Republicans’ attempted erasure of a 10-year-old rape victim is incredibly sick and disturbed

July 16, 2022 3:33 am
From left, Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, and Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan united in attempting to erase the rape of a 10-year-old girl from public conversation. (Official photos)

From left, Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, and Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan united in attempting to erase the rape of a 10-year-old girl from public conversation. (Official photos)

Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. David DeWitt is editor in chief of the Ohio Capital Journal.

The first and most important thing to recognize right now is that a heinous, violent crime was committed on a 10-year-old Ohio child, and thankfully justice has now found the alleged perpetrator.

Columbus man was indicted Wednesday in a case that made national and international headlines about a 10-year-old girl who had to travel to Indiana for an abortion after Ohio’s abortion ban went into effect following the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

The story is horrifying and tragic. She has experienced enormous trauma. My heart breaks for her, and I’m very grateful to all the hard-working professionals out there providing her and her family assistance in what must be a truly awful time.

Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and his spokesman responded to the story by ignoring questions about whether children should be forced to have their rapists’ babies. Then DeWine allies contacted members of the press, asking how sure they were that the case of the pregnant 10-year-old even happened.

The Washington Post, the conservative Daily Caller and other media outlets published stories saying that the case was unverified. The Wall Street Journal Editorial page suggested the story was a “fanciful tale.” The National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty referred to the case as “a fictive abortion and a fictive rape.”

Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost went on Fox News Monday to raise further doubts. He said he works closely with law enforcement authorities and he’d gotten “not a whisper” about the case. “What I’m saying to you is there is not a damn scintilla of evidence,” he doubled down to the Columbus Dispatch next on Tuesday.

Hamilton County Republican Party Chair Alex Triantafilou on Twitter called the case, “A garbage lie that a simple google search confirms is debunked.”

State Rep. Brian Stewart tweeted the Washington Post story saying he “wouldn’t trust an abortionist to tell me whether the sky is blue.”

Ohio U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan tweeted, “Another lie. Anyone surprised?

None of them had the patience to verify for themselves with certainty the truth of the matter before going public on a massive, self-serving scale. Jordan deleted his tweet.

Columbus police said in court they were referred the case by Franklin County Children Services on June 22. On Monday, July 11, Fox News host Jesse Waters and Ohio AG Dave Yost were on national television questioning whether this case was real.

The propaganda erasing this 10-year-old’s existence was so swift it spread out over right-wing social media like a blanket. Those advocating the truth of her story — privately already confirmed for some of us, and crushing to hear about — were subjected to wild-eyed mockery and ridicule.

– David DeWitt

The propaganda erasing this 10-year-old’s existence was so swift it spread out over right-wing social media like a blanket. Those advocating the truth of her story — privately already confirmed for some of us, and crushing to hear about — were subjected to wild-eyed mockery and ridicule.

It’s incredibly disturbing that the default position of so many sick and twisted people — including Ohio’s most prominent Republican elected officials — is to very vocally and very publicly question whether the rape and impregnation of a 10-year-old child ever happened.

This case was never implausible. In 2020, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 52 girls aged 14 and younger had abortions in Ohio, according to the state department of health. A review of just the city of Columbus’ police log since March 15 uncovered 59 reports of sexual assaults of girls 15 and younger that, based on the information available, could have resulted in pregnancy. This included at least one case of a 10-year-old.

The wheels and integrity of local journalism spun and uncovered the truth, with the Columbus Dispatch breaking the news of confirmation of the case.

But after the confirmation broke Wednesday, DeWine’s spokesman, Dan Tierney, again refused to comment on whether child rape victims should be forced to carry their pregnancies to term.

Ten-year-olds who become pregnant are by definition rape victims. But Ohio’s abortion law signed by DeWine doesn’t make exceptions for rape and incest.

Yost’s office didn’t respond Wednesday when asked whether he believes child rape victims should be forced to carry pregnancies, nor whether it was important to believe stories about sexual violence. Instead he put out a statement applauding the arrest.

Yost offered no correction, no apology, and showed no contrition for going on national television to try to erase the lived experience of a child rape victim.

“Apologize for what? Questioning a newspaper story?” Ohio’s top law enforcement officer Dave Yost said about a case in his own county.

DeWine, Yost, and other Ohio Republicans hurt a traumatized child once by forcing her to flee the state in order to receive health care; then they hurt her again by peddling propaganda erasing her; now they’re hurting her a third time by refusing to acknowledge and apologize for their actions.

These powerful Ohio Republican politicians have thoroughly and completely shed themselves of any sense of shame or conscience.

They’re disgusting and disgraceful; callous, careless and cruel.

This is a matter of basic human decency, good faith and sensitivity on the most fundamental level of society.

If they are willing to try to erase the traumatic story of a 10-year-old rape victim, whose pain and suffering will they not try to ignore and erase?

They behave on a base level so repugnant and removed from the general good-heartedness of most Ohioans it’s almost unfathomable.

I honestly don’t know how they sleep at night, or look at themselves in the mirror in the morning.

This article was first published by the Ohio Capital Journal, an affiliate of States Newsroom.

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David DeWitt
David DeWitt

Ohio Capital Journal Editor-in-Chief David DeWitt has more than 15 years experience covering Ohio government, politics and policy, including education, health care, crime and courts, poverty, state and local government, business, labor, energy, environment, and social issues. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, The Athens NEWS, and Plunderbund.com. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and is a board member of the E.W. Scripps Society of Alumni and Friends.

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