It’s 12 years later. In this age of #MeToo, that question should be a thing of the past. Encouragingly, we have seen instances when prosecutors here have treated abused women with respect — even admitted prostitutes — and have come down hard on the perpetrators.

All funerals are sad by definition, but the 2007 rites for Amanda Buckley were particularly difficult to bear.


She was just 18, a star softball player with an incandescent smile. Her body had been found in the closet of a man named Jason Shenfield, duct tape sticking to her hair.


What made Buckley’s death so terrible was that law enforcement had the chance to stop Shenfield — but didn’t. Seven months before Buckley’s killing, two girls ages 18 and 19 told investigators that Shenfield had raped them, binding them with duct tape and threatening them with a knife and his pit bull to force them to perform sex acts.


But Shenfield walked. When his lawyer produced information from the girls’ social media accounts, Palm Beach County State Attorney Barry Krischer’s office caved, speaking vaguely about the case not being provable beyond a reasonable doubt.


And so Shenfield went home, free to strike again. And Amanda Buckley died.


You might have missed this amid the recent outpouring of investigative stories about Krischer’s outrageous failure to put away Jeffrey Epstein a decade ago, although the county’s then-prosecutor was handed evidence from 13 underage teenage girls who said they were molested or sexually assaulted by the Palm Beach multimillionaire. But Krischer treated the abused girls as if they were prostitutes, using the same sort of “evidence” from their social media accounts.


It was a failure so grotesque that Palm Beach police went to the FBI to seek justice — only to be frustrated by a lack of justice in the federal courts as well.


Yet as Post reporters John Pacenti and Lulu Ramadan pointed out, the Epstein case was far from the time that the former longtime Palm Beach County prosecutor discounted or disparaged teenage victims of sexual assault.


A pattern is clear: the Palm Beach County prosecutor’s office repeatedly failed to stand up for teen girls victimized by older men. Krischer’s office worried excessively that the teens weren’t sympathetic enough to juries instead of doing their damndest to put dangerous perpetrators behind bars.


Years later, these cases still shock the conscience. They mock the sense of closure that justice is supposed to provide.


It’s 12 years later. In this age of #MeToo, that question should be a thing of the past. Encouragingly, we have seen instances when prosecutors here have treated abused women with respect — even admitted prostitutes — and have come down hard on the perpetrators.


One thing that needs to be done: As Pacenti discovered in his reporting, Florida law remains pitifully weak when it comes to charging someone with molestation if the victim is 16 or older. Without penetration, the crime is considered merely misdemeanor battery — not a sex crime — and carries a maximum penalty of only a year in jail.


State Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Delray Beach, says she intends to file legislation to close this loophole. Good for her. The law must reflect the genuine seriousness of sex crimes. And prosecutors must do their jobs.


This guest editorial was published by the Palm Beach Post, a sister newspaper within Gannett.