In Blow To A Victim-Blaming Justice System, Judge Faces Removal For Rape Trial Comments

Let's all make an effort to support survivors, shall we?

A Canadian judge may lose his position after making shocking, insensitive remarks during a 2014 trial in Alberta.

Judge Robin Camp oversaw a case in which a 19-year-old woman reported being raped at a house party. During deliberations, the judge asked the woman, among other increasingly questionable things, "Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?" 

"Young women want to have sex, particularly if they're drunk," he said, according to notes compiled by the Canadian Judicial Council. Later in the trial, the council also cites him as saying that "sex and pain sometimes go together... that's not necessarily a bad thing."

64-year-old Camp eventually acquitted the defendant and offered even more baffling advice in closing remarks at the trial.

"I want you to tell your friends, your male friends, that they have to be far more gentle with women," he said. "They have to be far more patient. And they have to be very careful. To protect themselves, they have to be very careful."

Camp's ruling has since been overturned on appeal, and the case will return to trial in November. Camp, who has since become a federal judge, is now at risk to lose his position. The Canadian Judicial Council, which consists of three judges and two lawyers, will decide his fate.

Judge Camp has since apologized for his comments, reflecting on the hurt he caused his wife, daughter, and women everywhere. But his words are reflective of a victim-blaming culture that has long set the stage for unfair judicial handling of rape cases. 

They also come at a time when the prevalence of sexual assault against young adults, often taking place on college campuses, is under an international microscope. Many critics point to sentences like that of Brock Turner, who, following a conviction for felony sexual assault, finished serving his time in a matter of months. A Harvard student recently made headlines when she wrote an open letter to the school criticizing their handling of her alleged rape. The "Just Say Sorry" campaign started in the wake of that letter encouraging universities to apologize for their previous treatment of sexual assault cases and survivors.

Even bars are taking action: a new program called Safe Bars is training bartenders how to spot and prevent unwanted advances. As prompted by the nationwide outrage over Turner's sentencing, a new California law now prevents perpetrators of sexual assault from going on probation if their victim was unconscious or too drunk to give consent. Previously, the only people ineligible for probation were those who used force to initiate an assault. 

It's a start. And it's been a long time coming. But there's still much more to do.

Cover photo: Wikicommons

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