Friday, February 25, 2011

Judge Dewar's Rape Apology by Alex Snider

I've tried starting out this post ten times but I am just so enraged and saddened that I don't even know where to begin. Everyday, there are stories about rape survivors and the evisceration of their accounts by the media -- whether they were alone, dressed inappropriately, too pretty, drunk, in a dangerous neighbourhood or country or even if they are accusing someone that people don't want to think of as a rapist.

A part of me almost understands the need to rationalize rape, to see it as only happening to women who invite it somehow because the idea that one in four women are raped in her lifetime; that they are raped by friends, by partners, by family members; that women with disabilities are more likely to be raped as are women of colour and women living in poverty; that rapists can be doctors and lawyers and teachers and police officers and other authority figures whom we trust. The truth is scary and sad and ugly.

But, where I break off from coming close to understanding the impulse to hide one's head in the sand and pretend that rape can't happen to 'good' women who take precautions is that I know the truth. I know the statistics, I know it doesn't matter what a woman does to protect herself because rape is an act of power committed by someone who doesn't care what a woman is wearing or what she looks like or any of the other straw-men pointed to when talking about rape, I know because I have friends who were raped, because I've been raped. 

And, knowing these things, I want to change the world, the ideologies, the mythologies that surround rape and rape culture so that even just one less woman is raped. I want to see rape become about the rapist, not the survivor and that the rapist will be held accountable because at the end of the day, like every other illegal act, the only person to blame is the person who committed the crime. 

So, here we are, in a society that doesn't yet believe that wholly but that is coming along, right? I mean, in 2007, the supreme court of Canada ruled that judges could no longer give out conditional sentences to sexual offenders because in doing that, the severity of sexual assault is marginalized and a rapist walks. That's a big step towards protecting survivors and decrying rape mythology. 

Yesterday, as Dewar handed down the verdict in Winnipeg, he made it clear that he did not buy Rhodes' defense of misunderstanding consent but that she was asking for it.

Dewar cited "inviting circumstances" and that "(t)hey made their intentions publicly known that they wanted to party". He pointed out the clothing she and her friends were wearing and that they had spoken of skinny dipping. He stated that "signals were sent that sex was in the air". He decided that his job was not, in fact, to up hold the law but to determine "moral blameworthiness" (his invoking of morals is so fucking scary I can barely breath). He called Rhodes a "clumsy Don Juan".

Victim-blaming and slut-shaming were the deciding factors for Dewar, not the actual law. This man is a menace to society given his position of authority and we should not be silent about calling him out on is dangerous, not to mention callous, decision. 

Email the Canadian Judicial Council to complain about Justice Dewar's rape apology here. Tell them that rape is never the fault of the victim, that rapists are serious offenders, that as it is only 6% of rape survivors report their attacks and that comments and rulings like Dewar's are made, even fewer will come forward. Tell them that we will not be silent until there is a full inquiry. 

You will need to include your name and address and the name of the judge (Robert Dewar). They are not looking for complaints on the ruling but on the conduct of the judge in question.

This is what I've sent (feel free to copy and paste):

To Whom it May Concern,

I am lodging a complaint against Justice Robert Dewar of the Queen's Bench in Manitoba for the comments he made in the Kenneth Rhodes sexual assault trial. In citing the dress of the survivor, he has perpetrated myths surrounding sexual assault that place the blame of an attack on the victim. In stating that it was his responsibility to factor in "moral blameworthiness", he has let personal opinion regarding his own morals influence his judgement. In suggesting that "signals were sent that sex was in the air", Justice Dewar has undermined the law by choosing to ignore the criminal act at hand. His conduct has damaged the integrity of the justice system he has been chosen to represent. 

Every seventeen minutes a woman in Canada is raped but nearly ninety-four percent go unreported in part owing to the pervasive rape-culture which holds a rape survivor more responsible than the assailant. Justice Dewar's irresponsible and reprehensible comments have only added to this mentality which in turn puts more people at risk while allowing sexual offenders to go free. Rape is never the fault of the victim and the judicial courts should reflect that.

I hope that there will be action on the part of the Council to review and determine punishment for Justice Dewar. The public is not safe with a judge who holds the belief that a woman who is raped invited her attack.

Hurray, the council is going to review his comments! Doesn't mean that we are going to stop protesting though, just means that someone is listening.

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