"If You Wouldn't Have Been There..." -- Judge Lectures Victim for Being Sexually Assaulted

“When you blame others, you give up your power to change,” the judge said. I'm sorry, what?

Sep 7, 2012 at 1:00pm | Leave a comment

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: An drunk off-duty cop walks into a bar1, walks up to a friend of a friend, sticks his hand up her skirt and gropes her genitals. When a bouncer tries to eject him, he threatens the bouncer with arrest.

That happened two years ago, and the trial only just concluded. The jury found him guilty, but the judge decided to sentence him only to two years on probation and some community service, with credit for time served (a whopping four days in jail). Plus, he doesn’t have to register as a sex offender. He lost his job after an investigation within the police department, which is probably the only fair consequence to come out of this case, no matter what the judge and the community seem to think.

This kind of leniency in sentencing is extremely common for police officers, as is the support for the officer from the community; he got 25 letters of support to bolster his case that he’s just a good person, really. The judge claimed that she wanted to consider his excellent record, while his friends and former partners rallied around him to say he’s just not that kind of guy; despite the fact that he’d pinched another patron’s butt before assaulting the victim in this case, which would seem to suggest a certain pattern of behavior. One of his character witnesses even wound out quite a sob story about how he won’t be able to hunt now with a felony conviction on his record.

Boo hoo.

More seriously, his supporters claim that losing his job may result in losing his house, which I agree really, really sucks. But that’s a consequence he should have considered before committing an action that could potentially result in being fired.

In this case, there’s even more than the usual gross favoritism exhibited in the direction of police officers. Because, you see, while the judge felt that a slap on the wrist was an appropriate sentence for the offender, she also evidently felt it was necessary to shame and humiliate the victim in court. I didn’t realize this fell under judicial purview now; I guess Judge Judy-style justice is more popular than I thought!

She informed the victim that she really should have used better sense before going to a bar. No really, she did.

If you wouldn't have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you...I hope you look at what you've been through and try to take something positive out of it. You learned a lesson about friendship and you learned a lesson about vulnerability.

“When you blame others, you give up your power to change,” the judge said. I'm sorry, what? Maybe you should take your own lesson to heart, Judge Hatch, because all that time you wasted on lecturing the victim in your courtroom in front of an audience could have been spent on more productive activities like preventing sexual assault and making the world safer for people who want to report it. 

Apparently going to the grocery store after 10 pm is dangerous for women, who should exercise some darn common sense, stop blaming people, and get over this victimhood complex. The judge hastened to cover her, and yes, that’s her tracks with a comment about how of course victims aren’t to blame, you know, except how they are because “all women should be vigilant against becoming victims.”

As Kate Harding eloquently put it this morning: “WHAT IS THIS I CAN'T ASDFHKG;FLGJQA''JS'L”

How about all sexual assailants become vigilant against not sexually assaulting people?!

The victim knew she was up against a lot with this case. First, there’s the inevitable shit anyone reporting sexual assault is in for by daring to talk about it, testify in court, and see the case through. Then there’s the added pressure in a case involving a police officer. She was “harshly criticized by members of the community and even friends who accused her of ruining the defendant's life by pursuing prosecution.”

I see this all the time in cases like this, where victims are attacked for ruining the attacker’s life to distract from the actual case at hand. Well, how about attackers NOT ATTACK PEOPLE, and then maybe this whole life-ruining thing wouldn’t be a problem? The only people responsible for sexual assault are the people who commit it, not the people who report it; and the only people responsible for the consequences are, again, the people who chose to commit acts of sexual assault. If you don’t want to lose your job and your hunting license, don’t grope someone’s genitals without consent! Problem solved!

This unnamed woman was courageous for being willing to stay the course in this case, even through exhaustion, attacks from her own friends, and a lecture from the judge at the conclusion of the case. She deserves a medal, and what she’ll probably get is more shaming for daring to speak out about a sexual assault from a police officer. I hope she knows that her own actions may give other women courage to speak up and not back down in the future.

Jane Doe, I don’t know if you’re reading this, but if you are, here’s a little solidarity fistbump.

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1. Did I mention the prosecution says he drove himself there? After eight beers? Return