We tend to get complacent about women’s issues in Canada and feel that equality, while perhaps not achieved, is at least guaranteed under law. So it was surprising and disconcerting when a recent case in Manitoba showed such blatant discrimination against women.
In February, Justice Robert Dewar gave a conditional sentence to convicted rapist Kenneth Rhodes, describing him as a “clumsy Don Juan” who misinterpreted the signals of his victim – despite evidence that the forced intercourse and sexual assault resulted in significant bruising and permanent emotional and physical scars.
In sentencing, Dewar noted that the woman was wearing high heels, a tube top without a bra, and “plenty of make-up” which gave the impression to her rapist that she was ‘ready to party’ and that “sex was in the air”.
Rhodes pleaded not-guilty, saying he thought the sex was consensual (even though the victims claimed she was struggling and saying no). The judge rejected this defence – and yet still saw fit to blame the victim for her apparel and for her lack of judgement in getting in to the situation.
Not surprisingly, women’s and victim’s groups are irate and have been protesting outside the courthouse. Lorraine Parrington, who co-ordinates the sexual assault crisis program at Klinic, a community health centre in Winnipeg, told the CBC that Dewar's remarks show the need for more education about how women should be treated in sexual assault cases.
Fewer than 10 per cent of sexual assault cases are actually reported and Parrington worries Dewar's comments will discourage future victims from coming forward. "I'd like to say I was shocked. Unfortunately, I'm not after doing this work for lots of years," she said. "But I was appalled. I was outraged. I was disheartened."
“I hope they appeal [the sentence],” the victim told Winnipeg Free Press reporter Mike McIntyre.” I would like some justice. This is not real justice to me. It’s a slap on the wrist.” She said she has suffered severe psychological trauma from the attack, including trust issues with men and a fear of being alone.
Obviously the fight for women’s rights is not over yet, not when raped women are portrayed as having ‘asked for it’. Appalling.