Former Kentucky Governor and noted asshole Matt Bevin was quite busy during his last month in office, issuing hundreds of pardons for everyone from a man convicted of homicide whose family raised more than $20,000 for Bevin’s campaign, to a man convicted of raping and sodomizing a nine-year-old child. This has gotten him into no amount of trouble, with both Republicans and Democrats in the state calling for an investigation into Bevin’s last-minute flurry of pardons, and even Senator Mitch McConnell wagged a decrepit disapproving finger, describing the pardons as “completely inappropriate.”
But Bevin, unsurprisingly, is unrepentant. And in a radio interview on Thursday, he made the incredible choice to offer a full-throated defense of his pardon of Micah Schoettle, a man convicted of repeatedly raping a young girl beginning when she was nine years old and, until Bevin pardoned him, was serving a 23-year sentence. His rationale? Her hymen was intact.
“There was zero evidence,” Bevin said to radio host Terry Meiners, before going on to reveal extremely personal details of the young victim that would easily allow her to be identified, and saying that the victim’s sister, whom Schoettle was also accused of raping, was also often there when the assaults occurred. Bevin then offered his truly astounding rationale for his belief that the assaults had not occurred. “Both their hymens were intact. This is perhaps more specific than people would want, but trust me. If you have been repeatedly sexually violated as a small child by an adult, there are going to be repercussions of that physically and medically,” Bevin said. (Previously, Bevin had defended his pardon of Schoettle by arguing that he was convicted “based only on testimony that was not supported by any physical evidence,” and that he did “not believe that the charges against Mr. Schoettle are true.”)
This is, of course, completely, absolutely wrong, and it bears stressing the point that the hymen, intact or not, indicates nothing at all about whether someone has been sexually assaulted or has had sex. As researchers have put it, “An examination of the hymen is not an accurate or reliable test of a previous history of sexual activity, including sexual assault.” Kentucky’s former chief medical examiner and child abuse expert Dr. George Nichols, underscored this point to the Courier Journal. “Rape is not proved by hymen penetration,” Nichols said. Nichols added of Bevin, “He not only doesn’t know the law, in my humble opinion, he clearly doesn’t know medicine and anatomy.”
In an interview with WCPO, the victim’s mother described Bevin’s pardon of the man who raped her child as “a slap in the face.”
“It feels like we’re going through it all over again ... we just got to the point where we felt safe leaving the house and not looking over our shoulders,” she said. She shared that her daughter has gone through years of therapy for post-traumatic stress resulting from the sexual assaults, and that the family is considering moving to a different area. “Now that he got away with it, who’s to say what he’s going to do to another child?” she told WCPO.
While I personally believe governors can and should use their pardon authority to get as many people out of prison as possible, using your power to benefit your donors and make some sort of statement about why victims shouldn’t be believed is a wildly gross abuse. It’s unknown how Schoettle’s case came onto Bevin’s radar, but what is clear is that he’s using his pardon as a way to make a broader point about sexual assault. He simply just doesn’t believe victims, and is perfectly fine with using a traumatized child and her family to drive his point home.