CO-Sen: Ken Buck’s Woman Problem

We typically see a gender gap in US politics, with men favoring Republicans more and women going for Democrats. That trend could decide the US Senate race in Colorado, which has been dominated this week by a controversy over Republican Ken Buck refusing to prosecute a rape case in 2005. The victim in the case has released audio of a meeting with Buck, then Weld County District Attorney, where he basically argued against prosecution:

“I know there are a lot of circumstances prosecutors take into account when prosecuting cases,” said Kjersten Forseth, the interim executive director of ProgressNow Colorado. “I just think she was treated badly by Ken Buck. As a prosecutor, you are there to be a victim’s advocate and not the rapist’s advocate, and I just felt he was being more like the rapist’s advocate.”

In the five-year-old conversation, which the victim taped without Buck’s knowledge — which is within Colorado law — Buck insisted that the circumstances of her alleged rape were inconclusive and would not provide him with an airtight case. The victim, then a 21-year-old student, had admitted she was intoxicated and invited her alleged attacker to her apartment. Her alleged attacker was also a former lover, though she said she hadn’t seen him for more than a year.

“It appears to me and it appears to others that you invited him over to have sex with him,” Buck said on the hazy recording, before acknowledging she may have been unconscious at the time. When the victim went on to say she had not consented to sex, woke up only to find herself being violated, and told the man to stop, Buck seemed unmoved.

As the above notes, the suspect in the case admitted that he raped the victim, on tape, to the police.

Later, the case became more sinister, as Buck assumed the victim previously had an abortion and seemed to make that part of the basis for him declining to prosecute:

BUCK: There are a lot of things that I have a knowledge of, that I would assume (name of possible suspect redacted) knows about and that they have to do with, perhaps, your motives for (unintelligible) and that is part of what our calculation has been in this.

VICTIM: I’m interested to hear more about that, my motives, for what this has been.

BUCK: You have, you have had HIS baby, and you had an abortion.

VICTIM: That’s false, that’s just false.

BUCK: Why don’t you clarify?

VICTIM: I did have a miscarriage; we had talked about an abortion. That was actually year and a half ago. So …

BUCK: That would be something that you can cross-examine on, that would be “something that might be a motive for trying to get back at somebody.” And it would be a (unintelligible). And it’s part of what we have to take into account whether we can prove this case or not. And there are a lot of things that, um, you know, for as why weren’t not prosecuting the case. We’ve got to weigh all that, and it not something that I feel comfortable with, but something I have to be.

Buck further intimated that the victim only came forward to claim rape in the case because she had “buyer’s remorse.”

This issue has the possibility of alienating many women to Buck’s candidacy. His opposition to abortion even in the case of rape or incest, and his support for the “personhood amendment” on the ballot in November has already angered female voters. Now this “blame the victim” incident in an unprosecuted rape case could put that over the edge.

The victim has now come forward and given further context to Buck’s decision not to prosecute, and it really does look like he based it on her personal history rather than a thorough reading of the law.

During the victim’s meeting with Buck, Buck referred to the fact that she had invited the suspect to her apartment, saying, “It would appear to me and it appears to others that you invited him over to have sex with him.”

“So, you’re telling me that previous sexual relations is enough to provide consent; you’re telling me that because I called him and invited him up, that I invited him up for sex?” she asks.

“I’m telling you that’s what circumstances suggest to people, including myself, who have looked at it. Although you never said the word ‘yes,’ the appearance is of consent.” Buck said.

The Buck campaign dismisses all of this as old news. Then again, they dismissed an admitted case of rape.

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David Dayen

David Dayen