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Judge Says 'Overweight' Teen Was 'Flattered' by Sexual Assault

Movements like #MeToo aren't enough when victims are still forced to endure abuse by the justice system

Published on: October 27, 2017

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Judges are supposed to provide an independent and objective assessment of the facts and how the law applies to them. But what happened in a Québec courtroom recently was anything but an impartial assessment of the facts.

During a sexual assault trial, Judge Jean-Paul Braun commented on the appearance and motives of the 17-year-old girl who was the victim of sexual assault. He said she was “a bit overweight, but she had a pretty face,” and implied that she might have been "flattered" by the attention, according to the CBC.

Let that sink in for a moment.

The teenage victim accused taxi driver Carlo Figaro of sexual assault in 2015. She reported that he licked her face and groped her breasts and genitals through her clothing at the end of her taxi trip. Figaro told authorities he had never noticed her before, despite frequenting the coffee shop where she worked.

Figaro was convicted of sexual assault, yet the judge still insisted on commenting on both the victim’s appearance and the perpetrator’s — as though either of these things should make a difference in how either party acted. Judge Braun even went so far as to argue with the Crown prosecutor that there are levels of consent even though the victim was a minor at the time.

If this is how a judge who rules in favor of the victim acts, imagine how those who don’t believe victims behave.

If this is how a judge who rules in favor of the victim acts, imagine how those who don’t believe victims behave.

Québec’s Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée has condemned Judge Braun's comments and plans to file a complaint with the magistrate council, which is heartening. But this is far from an isolated case. Another judge from Canada, Robin Camp, asked a rape victim during trial in 2014: “Why couldn’t you just keep your legs together?” And we all know how Brock Turner’s case turned out in the U.S.

It's common knowledge how few victims of sexual assault come forward to accuse the perpetrators. If you’ve ever wondered why, look no further than the judges who preside over cases like these. Coming forward publicly about an event as violating as sexual assault is terrifying enough — but knowing that in doing so you’ll be subjecting yourself to criticism by the judge is enough to discourage even the bravest of victims.

The recent #MeToo movement and the courage victims have had in sharing their stories has been heartening, but it's not enough. Change needs to take place at all levels. Outing the high-ranking assaulters is great, but if the victims are still forced to endure the humiliation brought by those dispensing justice, nothing will ever change.

This victim deserved more from her justice system. They all do.

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