‘WHY did the person walk out of court a free man? My life has been ruined.” That question, posed by the victim of Sean Hogg, is one that has been asked by many since he was found guilty raping her when she was 13.

In an interview with the Sunday Mail, the victim, now 18, spoke of her distress that rapist Hogg was spared jail and given a pitiful 270 hours of community work for the series of attacks he perpetrated upon her.

The sentence handed down by the judge was criticised for being unduly lenient and for the emphasis it placed on the fact that Hogg was 17 at the time of the offence and that he was a first-time offender.

What kind of message does that send to victims – and perpetrators – of rape?

There are certain types of crimes that are of such seriousness that they should be exempt from any leniency in sentencing due to it being a first-time offence.

It is grotesque that any rapist is given what amounts to a “pass” for their first offence.

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Rape isn’t a mistake or an accident. It isn’t something that just happens or something that can be excused away because perpetrators didn’t think through the harm it would cause.

In whatever circumstances it occurs, it is an act rooted in power and control. Rape is a conscious, deliberate choice an abusive man makes.

As a society, we are often far too quick to minimise that choice or allow excuses for it. It is an inherently destructive act and its impact on the victim is long-lasting.

Yet sexual violence has one of the lowest conviction rates of any crime in Scotland.

When victims do manage to navigate the difficult – and often traumatic – process of getting to court, they are still being let down by a system that is stacked against them.

Imagine how it must feel to hear your rapist’s age, previous good conduct and employment prospects used to minimise the horror of what he did to you.

In the interview with the Sunday Mail, Hogg’s teenage victim posed a vital question: ‘’Why was he allowed to get on with his life when he’s clearly ruined mine?’’

During sentencing, the judge said he didn’t believe that sending Hogg to prison would contribute to his rehabilitation.

But rehabilitation surely shouldn’t be the only consideration. What about punishment? What about safeguarding? What about deterring other would-be perpetrators?

As our society, our words around sexual violence often don’t match our actions. We say that it is a terrible crime – the judge himself said during sentencing that rape was one of the most “serious crimes” – yet we have built a system that routinely lets victims down and lets perpetrators off.

While much has been made of Hogg’s age at the time of the offence being a mitigating factor, the judge said that had he been over 25 at the time, he still would have likely only served four or five years.

Hogg’s victim says that she now wonders: “Why did I even bother reporting the rape in the first place. Nothing happened and three years on the Sex Offenders Register for a serial sex offender adds to the insult of what he did to me.”

The Crown Office is currently considering whether there are grounds for lodging an appeal against the sentence.

Rape Crisis Scotland chief executive Sandy Brindley said: “It is hard to think of any circumstances where community service for rape could ever be an appropriate sentence. It is also extremely difficult to see how this could in any way act as ‘rehabilitation’ for rape.”

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It takes tremendous courage for any woman to report rape. It is also completely understandable why so many do not.

The victim in this case was just 13 years old at the time the offences took place. There is no doubt that she has been let down by the system she should have been able to rely on to seek some sort of justice.

The path to what ended in a sentence of a paltry 270 hours of community service was a long one for the victim. It would have involved many, many hours of interviews, statements, appointments and appearances – all of which can be re-traumatising for victims and survivors of sexual violence.

Hogg’s crimes and the long process for seeking justice for them swallowed up what should have been formative, fun teenage years and, as the victim puts it, it looks like it was “for nothing”.

She deserved so much better. As do all victims of sexual violence whose life prospects and wellbeing have been placed secondary to the abusive men that perpetrate them.