Sexual assault justice still an uphill battle

The justice system is often a very unsatisfying, or even hostile place for women reporting sexual assault.

The justice system is often a very unsatisfying, or even hostile place for women reporting sexual assault.

In September, a hearing into the conduct of Justice Robin Camp when he presided over a sexual assault trial in 2014 as an Alberta provincial court judge, goes ahead.

He’s now a Federal Court judge, promoted in June of 2015.

Whatever the outcome of the review, his statements during the trial are exactly why so many women are too afraid to report sexual assaults, and even more afraid of their case going to trial.

It’s extremely unsettling that the review comes only after a complaint from four law professors at Dalhousie University and the University of Calgary.

The things he said during the trial, all there for the record, demonstrate that this man should never be allowed near another such trial.

The complainant in the trial was a 19-year-old woman who not only had to endure talking about a trauma all over again, but also Camp asking her “Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?”

It is beyond ludicrous that anyone, let alone a judge, in 2016, would still think that a woman is in a position to prevent being raped (as if that’s solely her responsibility, forget the rapist) by keeping her knees shut.

He also referred to her as “the accused” on multiple occasions during the proceeding.

Then there was this: “…sex and pain sometimes go together, that — that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

Did the accused — the actual accused — even need a lawyer?

The idea of Camp presiding over a sexual assault trial in the future could only make one shudder.

Alberta’s Court of Appeal has ordered a new trial. Unsurprisingly, the accused was acquitted during the original one.

After the whole thing blew up, Camp volunteered to take some gender sensitivity training.

We’re skeptical that will be enough to dislodge his previous beliefs. Though we imagine he won’t be so blatant about displaying them in the future.

Unfortunately, Camp is not the only one inside or outside the legal system to hold such views.

Far too often, women encounter disbelief, suspicion and blame when they gather their courage and go in to make a report.

Sometimes sexual assault victims, the majority of whom are women, don’t even want to tell family and friends, for fear of being told in one way or another they were asking for it.

Sometimes it seems like we haven’t come very far at all.