It took almost 5 years, but a California Judge has finally been taken to task for his statements on rape.
In 2008, the OC Weekly reported that a Newport Beach judge made statements in the sentencing phase of a rape trial that the victim “didn’t put up a fight” and that the sexual assault that her ex-boyfriend was found guilty of by a jury of his peers was only “technical”. It has taken almost 5 years, but Superior Court Judge Derek G. Johnson has finally apologized. Granted, the apology came only after he was investigated and publicly admonished by the San Francisco-based Commission on Judicial Performance. The Los Angeles Times reports that in a news release on Thursday the commission stated,
In the commission’s view, the judge’s remarks reflected outdated, biased and insensitive views about sexual assault victims who do not ‘put up a fight’… The judge’s comments breached judicial ethics and created an impression of bias against the victim … Johnson’s remarks flew in the face of California law, which does not require proof that a rape victim tried to resist an attack.
The statements made by the judge at the 2008 sentencing of Metin Gurel, who had been found guilty of rape, forcible oral copulation, domestic battery, stalking and making threats against his former live-in girlfriend, and who had threatened to mutilate her face and vagina with a red hot screwdriver on the day of the rape, not only breached judicial ethics but highlights a major problem in our current society. The belief that it isn’t really rape unless a woman puts up a fight or there is some type of massive physical trauma is still prevalent today, as we all saw during the recent elections. According to documents released on Thursday the judge stated,
I’m not a gynecologist, but I can tell you something, if someone doesn’t want to have sexual intercourse, the body shuts down. The body will not permit that to happen unless a lot of damage in inflicted, and we heard nothing about that in this case. That tells me that the victim in this case, although she wasn’t necessarily willing, she didn’t put up a fight.
Judge Johnson is still on the bench, hearing and ruling on sexual assault and rape cases. Although compelled to make a public apology, his statements made in 2008 clearly show what his personal beliefs concerning the definition of rape are. If a woman is to intoxicated, or has been drugged, or is simply overpowered and to terrified to fight, in his estimation she was not raped.
I would argue that a simple public admonishment, followed by an apology, is not enough.
What do you think? Is Judge Johnson fit to rule on sexual assault and other cases?