When a Toronto police officer told students last year that they "should avoid dressing like sluts" to stay safe, women took to the streets in protest, ultimately forcing him to apologize. A similar outcry has erupted in response to the comments of an Arizona judge, who when sentencing a man for groping a woman, also told the victim that if she hadn't been in the bar that night, she wouldn't have been groped at all.
And in this case, the judge offered up an apology too.
In July, a jury found Robb Gary Evans, a 43-year-old Department of Public Safety officer, guilty of felony sexual abuse for walking up behind a woman in a bar, putting his hand up her skirt, and fondling her. Coconino County Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Hatch sentenced him to two years' probation, community service and treatment, reports the Arizona Daily Sun. After his conviction, the DPS fired him.
Many thought Hatch's lecture inappropriately implied that the victim was responsible for the abuse that she suffered, and contributes to a culture of "victim-blaming" that discourages women from coming forward when they're sexually assaulted or raped. A petition on the social action platform Change.org, urging Hatch to resign, has garnered over 15,000 signatures. The victim in the groping incident told the Daily Sun that she simply wanted an apology.
And on Friday, she got it. Hatch wrote in a statement that her comments went against her belief that all victims and defendants be "treated fairly and in a respectful manner" and that "victims should not be blamed for coming forward to report crimes."
When it comes to sexual assault, victim-blaming has a particularly inglorious history in America's courtrooms. Until the late '70s and early '80s, it was common for lawyers to use the "loose woman" defense, and details of the victim's sexual history were permitted as evidence. In order to avoid being placed on trial themselves, many rape victims chose not to report their rapes.
The issue of victim-blaming reached the mainstream last year, when women around the world -- often in provocative outfits -- marched in "SlutWalks," protesting the idea that a woman's appearance or behavior should ever be used to explain or excuse violence done to her.
Constable Michael Sanguinetti, the Toronto police officer whose comments sparked the movement, also later apologized. "I am embarrassed by the comment I made and it shall not be repeated," he said. And when the niece of the Toronto mayor and former Lingerie Football League player Krista Ford tweeted last month that a woman should protect herself from sexual assault by not dressing "like a whore," the subsequent social media frenzy forced her to backtrack too.
"I didn't mean to cause such an alarm and I apologize if I did," she tweeted. "I just want women to be safe."
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