Canadian judge writes the book on victim-blaming

“No jail for rapist because victim ‘wanted to party’”

With an headline like that, you just know it will be good!

“A convicted rapist will not go to jail because a Manitoba judge says the victim sent signals that “sex was in the air” through her suggestive attire and promiscuous conduct on the night of the attack.

Kenneth Rhodes was given a two-year conditional sentence last week that allows him to remain free in the community in a decision likely to trigger strong debate.

The Crown wanted at least three years behind bars.

Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Dewar called Rhodes a “clumsy Don Juan” who may have misunderstood what the victim wanted when he forced intercourse along a darkened highway outside Thompson, Man., in 2006.”

Strong debate? Oh I don’t think there’s much debate here. As Vanessa said, this guy pretty much wrote the book on victim-blaming.

When Judge Dewar said the woman and accused met at a bar under “inviting circumstances,” I rolled my eyes.

When he pointed out that the women talked about going swimming in a nearby lake that night “notwithstanding the fact neither of them had a bathing suit,” I laughed out loud.

When he noted that the woman and her friend were wearing “tube tops with no bra, high heels and plenty of makeup,” I threw up a little in my mouth.

When he said, “This is a case of misunderstood signals and inconsiderate behaviour,” I started to seethe.

And then for a moment I thought that, against all odds, Judge Dewar might have been beat in the rape apologist bingo game by defense lawyer Derek Coggan, who said that his client was simply “insensitive to the fact (she) was not a willing participant.”

Oh really? Because in my book (and also in, um, the legal code) being insensitive to the fact that someone is not a willing participant in some sexual act and doing it anyway is kinda the definition of rape.

Dewar said that “he didn’t want to be seen as blaming the victim but that all of the factors in the case had to be viewed to assess ‘moral blame worthiness.’” Dude, if you don’t think this is blaming the victim, what the fuck do you think is?

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

Read more about Maya

Join the Conversation