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The Shame of Victim Blame: How Women are Marginalized by Rape Culture

Updated on September 22, 2016
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She shouldn’t be dressed like that. What do you expect going to a man’s home that late at night? It’s not like she is a saint. Those are just a few of the excuses given for rapists. There is an alarming culture of victim blaming and it does not just involve the misguided pundits and drunken frat boys. Judges in criminal cases, who are supposed to be impartial, also suffer from this infliction.

Canadian Federal Court Judge Robin Camp presided over a rape case involving a nineteen year old woman who claimed she was raped at a house party. According to court documents, Judge Camp asked the victim, “why didn’t you keep your bottom down into the basin so he couldn’t penetrate you” and “why couldn’t you have just kept your knees together?” Astonishingly, this was not even his most ludicrous statement. According to the statement of allegations, he then said, “women want to have sex, particularly if they’re drunk” and “sex and pain sometimes go together…this is not necessarily a bad thing.” Please excuse me while I bash my head against the wall in disbelief. Okay, I am back. Can you even imagine a judge making those statements? Yeah, neither can I. Amazingly, this is not the only example of a judge blaming a rape victim for their own rape.

In 2007, Cherice Moralez accused her teacher, Stacey Dean Rambold of rape. She was fourteen years old at the time of the alleged incident while her teacher was in his late forties. In 2013, he pleaded guilty to sexual intercourse without consent and the judge who presided over the case, Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced Rambold to fifteen years with all but 31 days suspended. According to the Montana Attorney General’s office, Judge Baugh said the victim was “probably as much in control of the situation as was the defendant.” Keep in mind, he is referring to a fourteen year old girl going up against a sexual predator in his late forties. After a public outcry, the state Supreme Court overturned the initial sentence and Judge Randal Spaulding re-sentenced Rambold to fifteen years in prison with five years suspended. Unfortunately, Cherice Moralez committed suicide before the case even went to trial. I know some of you may be thinking this is because these judges were men and some men are just insensitive to the anguish rape victims suffer. However, before you make that assertion, let me inform you about a woman named Judge Jeanine Howard.

Judge Howard oversaw a rape case involving a victim who was fourteen years old at the time of the incident. After he admitted to raping her, the perpetrator, who was eighteen at the time of the occurrence, could have been sentenced to 20 years in prison. Instead, Judge Howard handed him a 45 day sentence and five years of community service. She also altered the defendant’s probation requirements. This means Sir Young, the defendant in this case, does not have to stay away from children, attend sex offender treatment or undergo sex offender evaluation. According to The Dallas Morning News, Judge Howard said she made her decision for several reasons. These include: the girl agreed to have sex with him but didn’t want it to be at school, the girl had three sexual partners and had given birth to a baby. Also, according to The Dallas Morning News, the victim testified that they talked about sex but all she wanted to do was kiss and she told him “stop” and “no” several times before and during the attack. To further display how socially tone deaf she is, Judge Howard ordered the defendant to perform 250 hours of community service at a rape crisis center. Luckily, the Dallas Rape Crisis Center had more sense and did not allow him to serve there.

These are just three examples of authority figures using their power to cast blame upon victims of rape instead of directing their rightful disdain towards the perpetrators of these despicable crimes. Fortunately, the public demanded justice and these irresponsible judges were held accountable for their actions. Judge Camp is in the midst of a Canadian Judicial Council inquiry and faces removal from the bench. The Montana Supreme Court censured Judge Baugh and suspended him for 31 days without pay. Incredibly, he was also given a lifetime achievement award from a local bar association in 2015. However, there is still a countless percentage of people who continuously lay blame on the rapee instead of the raper. And sometimes, even when the victim is not actively put on trial, the convicted felon gets a slap on the wrist, such as the case of Brock Turner. As you may recall, Brock Turner is the convicted rapist who drew national outrage after only serving three months in jail for the sexual assault of an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. The general public, the media, law enforcement agencies and the judicial system need to show our women (and sometimes men) that rape is not a matter to take lightly. It is not a case of “fooling around” gone too far. It is a serious crime and should be treated as such. A woman has the right to dress however she wants to without the fear of being sexually assaulted. And if a woman is sexually assaulted, we should not in turn assault her again with claims that she “should have known better.” We must do better for these victims and show them the empathy they deserve. If not, how are we any better than the assailants?

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    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 14 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      There was a watershed movie about how horribly women get treated after they report a rape. It was radical. It rocked our society. It was made 50 years ago. God in Heaven - does nothing ever change? Having been through the court system with my daughter's divorce, I can testify that you cannot count on a woman judge or a woman officer of the court to be any more sympathetic than anyone else to the plight of abused women. They should be held accountable for their lack of any sense of justice.