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AZ Sexual Abuse Case Shows We Still Don't Know How to Stop Rape

On Thursday, former Department of Public Safety Officer Robb Evans was sentenced to two years of probation after being convicted of sexually abusing a woman in a bar in July. After drinking eight beers and driving himself to the bar, Evans allegedly walked up behind a woman in the Green Room, a downtown bar in Flagstaff, Arizona, put his hand up her skirt, and touched her genitals. The ex-cop would have been facing between six months and two and a half years in prison, as well as being registered as a sex offender.

But what brought national attention to the trial is not necessarily the verdict, but comments made by the judge at the conclusion of the trial. Comments which appear to reinforce the idea that women who speak up about sexual harassment or rape will be punished for doing so.

“If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you,” said Judge Jacqueline Hatch to the defendant and the victim. According to the Daily Sun, after qualifying that the incident was not the victim’s fault, Hatch cautioned her to be more careful, adding, “When you blame others, you give up your power to change.”  

The victim has demanded that the judge apologize for her comments. She told the Daily Sun, “Coming from a woman, I would expect her to be a little bit more realistic about women being strong and independent and the fact that there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Hatch’s comments have caused a flurry of outrage on the internet. Many are calling for the Republican judge, who was appointed to the Coconino County Superior Court by Governor Jan Brewer in June of 2010, and elected to a full term in November, to retract her comments, or even resign.

A Change.org petition calls for Hatch to step down because “no more victims should be blamed for the egregious misconduct of police.” It's certainly worth noting that the officer had purportedly drunk eight beers before driving himself to the bar, defending himself by saying he wasn't intoxicated. He then allegedly told bouncers that he would arrest them for kicking him out.

In addition to affirming that police officers should be held to the law’s highest standards, comments on the petition emphasize that it is unacceptable to blame victims of sexual assault for the crime committed against them. The denunciation of Hatch's pronouncements as victim-blaming has been quick, cutting, and viral, given that Hatch is no Todd Akin and Flagstaff is a relatively small town.

And I should know — Flagstaff is my hometown. I learned of the case via an outraged Facebook link posted by one my high school friends. When I read about it last night (noting that reporting quality of the Daily Sun remains fairly terrible), I couldn’t help getting angry and tired at the same time.

I’m not the first person to talk about rape culture, and I’m sure I won’t be the last. I’m not the first person to talk about victim-blaming, and I’m sure I won’t be the last. I’m not the first person to not be able to muster any more anger about all of it, and I’m sure I won’t be the last.

As Jezebel’s Katie Baker puts it, “All we can hope for right now is that more women will ignore everything that ever comes out of Hatch's evil mouth and follow in the victim's brave, brave footsteps.”

Here’s the problem: Hatch is probably not that evil. Hatch seems to think that she can help this woman change, that she can empower her to protect herself from assault. But she can’t. It’s trite but true to say that the only person who can prevent rape is the rapist.

So how do we make that happen? I’ve seen men stand up; I’ve downloaded the appropriate apps; I’ve taken back the night; I Hollaback. What else?

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