Girls that were sexually assaulted by a Brighton Township teen attended his hearing yesterday with over 100 people at their side to support them.

As the victims made their way into the Judicial Center in Howell, they were surrounded by community members holding signs to express solidarity. The group created a path for the girls and their families to walk through, leading them into the building in a show of figurative and literal support. Monday’s gathering was organized as a peaceful protest by relatives who say the victims have not received justice.

The teen at the center of the case was originally charged with 31 felonies, but only pleaded to six and was given a 45-day sentence in the Monroe County Youth Center. Protester Jennifer Mersch says the light punishment will only continue a cycle of bad behavior. The mom says she's raising a seven-year-old son and she wants to teach him how to make good choices, that bad behavior has consequences, and no means no. Mersch says the “slap on the wrist” the teen has received as punishment sends the message that rape is okay, but that it only becomes okay when the community accepts it as such. She says the protest is her and others’ way of saying it’s not.

Rachele Evers attended the protest with her 17-year-old daughter Thea and spoke of her own family's experience. Evers says one of her family members was raped by a relative and that the perpetrator received a plea deal and easy sentence. Both women say in addition to protesting what they believe is a lack of severity in treating similar cases, they gathered to support the victims.

The group gathered just before a hearing in Livingston County Juvenile Court regarding the offender's release. Though he has served his full sentence, Referee Chelsea Thomason ruled the teen will not be released from the facility because he has not received a psychological evaluation yet, nor has a safety plan been created. The evaluation is tentatively scheduled for this Wednesday. A January 30th hearing will determine restitution fees, however future court dates regarding the teen's release have not been set at this time.

Several family members expressed disappointment over the outcome of the hearing. 33-year-old Ashley, mother of one of the victims, feels the situation remains “open-ended”. 53-year-old Jackie, also a mother of a victim, says in terms of progress, there has been “none whatsoever”.

The teen’s attorney, Edwin Literski, has declined to comment. (DK)