The state attorney for Hillsborough County, Florida, is under fire for saying that a teenage girl “voluntarily” went with the man accused of sexually abusing her.
At a voter forum last week, Republican Mark Ober was asked about his office’s initial decision not to pursue charges against Alexander Pelzer, a musician with a large YouTube following who allegedly manipulated the Florida girl into being his sex slave.
“This man has committed a crime, so don’t read between the lines here. ... She was with him voluntarily. She flew to see him,” said Ober, who is running for re-election. “And consent is not an issue. … We differ on — I know the facts of the case.”
In a statement provided to The Huffington Post, the girl’s mother, who wishes to remain anonymous, said it was inhumane to blame a victim of childhood sex abuse.
“This statement by a well-educated man of law is a prime example of why victims remain hesitant to report sexual abuse,” she said. “Projecting blame upon the victim like this only exacerbates the shame that sexual abuse victims already face daily.”
The mother told WUSA9 that her daughter was 15 when she started talking to Pelzer online and following him on Twitter. He asked the girl to send him pornographic photos and videos, the mother said, and later persuaded her to fly to the Washington, D.C., area four times for sex.
Pelzer forced her to call him master or sir and “would choke and slap her during sex,” according to records obtained by WUSA9,
He now faces multiple charges of child sex abuse.
“We promised our daughter if she was strong the law would protect her,” the mother continued. “At no point should any victim be used as a scapegoat for [multiple agencies’] failure to act with honesty and integrity.”
Ober’s Democratic opponent, Andrew Warren, seized on his comments in a press release.
“It’s a parent’s worst nightmare,” Warren said. “Their child is lured by an online predator, turned into a sex slave, and repeatedly raped, and not only did the State Attorney mishandle the case, but then criticized the victim.”
Ober later defended his comments.
“In no way am I blaming this victim or have I ever blamed any victim,” he told The Tampa Bay Times. “I am committed to bringing justice to many victims, including this young lady.”
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.