By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports
A post on an Idaho sheriff’s Facebook page is raising questions in his community over how sexual assault victims are treated.
On Friday afternoon, a Facebook account belonging to Nez Perce County Sheriff Joe Rodriguez posted an image of an elderly woman with the caption, “My ass was groped in 1886. I waited till now to tell about it.”
The post doesn’t say as much, but the allusion is clear: The past week’s national headlines have been dominated by 36-year-old accusations of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh, whom President Donald Trump nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court in July. The allegations stalled the Senate committee vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation, and critics have asked accuser Christine Blasey Ford why she didn’t report the alleged attack when it happened.
Idaho Democratic Party second vice chairman Jesse Maldonado, a Lewiston native, posted a screenshot of the since-deleted post, prompting a vigorous discussion of sexual assault and social media use.
“And people wonder why sexual assault victims don’t come forward. This is Nez Perce County’s Sheriff. Despicable, Joe,” Maldonado wrote. “How about a town hall with women and let them tell you why they don’t come forward and speak up?”
After dozens of comments — most criticizing Rodriguez — a Facebook account belonging to Rodriguez’s wife claimed the sheriff hadn’t, in fact, posted the original image. The account then posted a statement allegedly from Rodriguez himself:
“Sexual harassment is something I would not tolerate or deal with in any fashion, on or off duty. So when I heard of this story I was wondering what happened. My wife had the message sent to her and she believed she was on her Facebook when it was posted. So to those who believe we would tolerate this I guess you really don’t know either my wife or I very well. Some like to poke the bear, just to get a reaction and those start to feed the story more than what it really is. A poor joke, yes. Bad taste, yes. We have to look at the big picture when we start to post or react to a story. What truth is there. Did you investigate what was said or believe it was true. Kind of lets you know who really is a friend and who says they are a friend to your face, but behind close doors has another reaction.
If this has offended you I apologize,
Sheriff Joe Rodriguez”
But the issue isn’t just about a Supreme Court nomination, offensive jokes, or social media etiquette.
According to RAINN, two out of three sexual assaults nationwide are not reported to law enforcement. And according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, just 12 percent of reported sex crimes in Nez Perce County resulted in arrests between the years of 2009 and 2015. Statewide, that percentage was 24 percent during the same time period.
The controversy prompted an announcement from Lewiston police officer Terry Koeper: “We must, as neighbors, friends and family members stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those who have faced these appalling acts against them and put an end to sexual assault in our community,” he wrote on his campaign Facebook page. “I ran against our current sheriff in 2016 for a multitude of reasons, and after these revelations, plan to do so again in 2020.”
Rodriguez has not yet returned a request for comment. This post will be updated if that changes.