Criminal Justice

Judge's Comments About Rape Victim and Lack of Jail Time for Offender Spark Courthouse Protest

Despite the cold weather, dozens of picketers have been protesting outside the law courts in Manitoba, Canada, over a judge’s decision not to sentence a convicted rapist to jail and the judge’s comments about the conduct of the victim prior to the crime.

After Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Dewar called defendant Kenneth Rhodes a “clumsy Don Juan” and cited “unintentional” signals that “sex was in the air” because of the victim’s clothing and flirtatious conduct, some critics have even called for him to be removed from the bench, according to the Canadian Press, Winnipeg Free Press and the Winnipeg Sun.

Although the law was changed about 20 years ago to say that a woman’s consent to sex cannot be implied from clothing or conduct, women are still reluctant to report the crime because of a persistent public attitude that rape victims are somehow to blame for the attack, university professors tell the Winnipeg Free Press.

“It’s really reprehensible in this day and age that we’re still talking about whether someone wore a tube top with no bra as if that means that you deserve to be raped,” says Shannon Sampert of the University of Winnipeg.

“What is the signal we’re sending here? We’re saying, don’t bother coming to us unless you’re a virgin, wearing white, and have never consumed any alcohol and have never had a life outside of a convent.”

She called on the attorney for the crown to appeal the sentence.

The judge’s comments come only a short time after another public outcry over a Toronto police officer advised law students they could protect themselves against sexual assault by not dressing like a “slut.” He has been disciplined.

In what is billed as an exclusive interview with the Winnipeg Free Press, the unidentified victim in the Manitoba case says the defendant knew she didn’t want sex, because she repeatedly told him no. She also says she has a scar on her knee from the assault.

“I wasn’t dressed like a skank. I was like 20 years old, wearing a tube top. It was summer,” she tells the newspaper.

In the latest development in the case, the province of Manitoba has announced that it will file a complaint against Dewar with the Canadian Jusicial Council, reports another Winnipeg Free Press article.

Updated at 5:35 p.m. to include information about complaint against judge.

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