“What message is that sending to perpetrators?” Advocacy group disappointed in child rape plea deal

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SULPHUR, Okla. – An Oklahoma man who pleaded guilty to the brutal rape of a young teenager will serve 15 years of probation, attorneys said.

Benjamin Lawrence Petty, now 36, has entered a plea deal for the rape of a 13-year-old girl at Falls Creek church camp. Petty was a camp cook at the time of the 2016 offense.

Murray County Assistant District Attorney David Pyle said, along with the 15-year probation, Petty is also required to wear an ankle monitor for two years, register as a sex offender and obtain treatment. This was part of a negotiated guilty plea to first-degree rape, forcible sodomy and rape by instrumentation.

Pyle told News 4 the plea was made with the consent of the victim’s parents. She was only identified as “Jane Doe” in court documents, which also state she is a permanent resident of Texas.

According to court documents, Petty “closed to the door to his bedroom, tied Jane’s [Doe] hands behind her back, pulled down her jeans, pushed her face on his bed and violently raped and sodomized her.”

Brandon Pasley, a senior director of Specialized Training at YWCA Oklahoma City, said he is concerned about the message this sends regarding accountability. YWCA serves and supports victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“What message is that sending to perpetrators? That it’s okay to bind, sodomize, sexually assault, rape a 13-year-old child – and not serve any real time?” Pasley said. “The culpability of the perpetrator so often falls on the shoulders of the victim, even a 13-year-old child… that, if that child can’t be present in court, then we, as the state of Oklahoma, can’t prosecute that, that is challenging.”

Lee Berlin, a Tulsa-based attorney for Petty, told News 4 the result of the plea deal exceeded his expectations and he believes it was “fair for all parties involved.”

Litigation is still pending on a lawsuit filed in March 2017 regarding the churches involved with the Falls Creek camp. The lawsuit lists The First Baptist Church of Terrell, the Country Estates Baptist Church of Midwest City and the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO), which owns and operates Falls Creek.

Petty was brought to Falls Creek by Country Estates as their employee while The First Baptist Church of Terrell acted as the “parental role” of protecting the victim, court documents read.

The lawsuit accuses the churches and BGCO of negligence, claiming they did not “run a background check on all volunteers, despite recognizing the need to do so.”

Brian Hobbs, communications director for BGCO, confirmed Tuesday litigation is ongoing.

In a statement, we’re told, “Although we have no association with Mr. Petty, as he was not an employee or volunteer of Falls Creek, we absolutely abhor his behavior toward the victim in this case. We are continuing to pray for the victim and family, as well as everyone impacted by this.”

Pasley said he had a message for all survivors of sexual violence.

“It’s okay to reach out for help. We are here. We live in a society that is still very much victim blaming, that still places the burden of ending violence whether it’s domestic, intimidate partner or sexual violence on the shoulders of the victim,” he said. “To victims I would say, make your voice heard when you want to. We’re here for you.”

News 4 reached out to the judge presiding over the initial case and the other churches listed in the lawsuit for a comment. We have not heard back yet.


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