September 11, 2012 — An Arizona judge sparked criticism last week for lecturing a sexual assault victim about blaming others and telling her she "learned a lesson about vulnerability," USA Today reports (Alcindor, USA Today, 9/8).
Coconino County Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Hatch sentenced the defendant in the case, former police officer Robb Gary Evans, to two years of probation after he was convicted of sexual abuse for putting his hand up the victim's skirt and touching her genitals at a bar.
Hatch advised the woman to be more vigilant, saying, "If you wouldn't have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you." Hatch also told her, "When you blame others, you give up your power to change."
She said she hoped both victim and defendant would "take something positive" from the experience (Betz, Arizona Daily Sun, 9/6).
Comments Spark Outcry
The comments prompted an outcry from columnists and bloggers, who called for Hatch to apologize to the woman. A column in the Arizona Republic said Hatch's remarks translated to, "You asked for it," while an Arizona Daily Sun editorial said the judge "marginalize[d] the courage it took for the victim of a stigmatized crime like sex abuse to come forward" (USA Today, 9/9).
Coconino County Attorney David Rozema said, "Victims need to feel safe to report and assist prosecution," adding, "They bear no responsibility for the actions of those who commit sex crimes against them. Offenders alone must be held accountable" (Arizona Daily Sun, 9/6).
Hatch issued an apology, saying that she failed to uphold her responsibility to treat victims with respect (USA Today, 9/8).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership