By Tammi Pitzen, Executive Director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County
That day is not today.
Remember in my last blog that I yearned for a tomorrow where people understood trauma and what consent is? Well, after reading a story in the news and doing a little research on that story…that day is definitely not today!
A judge in Canada is facing removal from the bench for his conduct when he asked a woman in a rape case why she couldn’t “just keep her knees together.” Yes, let that sink in for a minute. Think about how those five words uttered by a man charged with upholding justice will impact the young rape victim he was speaking to in open court. She is 19. Imagine being 19 and being raped in a bathroom over a sink and then the judge presiding over your case basically tells you that you could have prevented this if you would have just kept your knees together, or if you would have pushed your bottom to the sink he would not have been able to penetrate you.
Please take a minute and re-read that last part and fully appreciate what he has done to this victim. And what he has done to this Rapist. The victim will forever live with those words and wonder if she could have prevented her own rape. If she somehow could have stopped him from robbing her of what her life could have been like without rape being a part of it.
He went on to give the rapist the following advice, “I want you to tell your friends, your male friends, that they have to be far more gentle with women. They have to be far more patient. And they have to be very careful. To protect themselves, they have to be very careful.”
He acquitted the rapist because he felt his story was more credible. This has been overturned and this case is set for a new trial. If you were that 19 year-old rape victim would you go through the ordeal of a trial again? Saying she was re-victimized in that courtroom by that judge is an understatement.
The judge is facing removal from the bench. There are proceedings going on right now. I am anxious to hear the outcome. I will be shocked if he is not removed.
His excuses? Well, he said that he received little training on sexual assault cases. He said most of his legal career he handled bankruptcy cases. He then went on to blame others. He said that his colleagues knew he had limited knowledge of Canadian law. He even went so far as to say it was non-existent.
Let’s ponder for a moment what some offender behaviors look like. In my experience, they blame others for their behaviors and choices. In my experience, they express their helplessness in what happened. In my experience, they minimize the consequences of their choices on their victims. I am going to leave that right here without any other comments.
Do you know what else bothers me about this whole scenario? In some news accounts his remarks are referred to as “off-color”. What does that mean? They are not off-color. They are demoralizing. They are humiliating. They are victim blaming.
There are reports that Robin Camp, the Judge in this case has undergone sensitivity training and has apologized publicly several times. Sensitivity training? This is not a case of saying something that hurt someone’s feelings. This is a case of potentially sentencing a victim of rape to a life of self-blame, feelings of unworthiness of protection, of self-destructive behavior…of a life-time of therapy to just process the trauma caused by the judge’s remarks, not even considering the amount of therapy to heal from the original trauma of the rape itself.
Do you remember the old saying- sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me? Words do hurt. They leave wounds that are both deep and disfiguring. They can kill a person’s soul. Professionals who are charged with upholding the laws and doling out justice have a special and unique power of defining what is acceptable behavior in our society and defining what is of value in our society. What they say impacts a victim’s recovery and healing. They should be very careful with their words. Whether they have specific training in sexual assault — they should have common decency and kindness.
I am still hoping for better opportunities for healing for victims of sexual assault, but more than that, I am still hoping for a world where a judge advises a rapist that he should not rape a 19 year-old over a sink in a bathroom at a house party.
I am still hoping for a world where a 19 year-old woman is not responsible for her rapist’s behaviors.