If you follow any news media sites on social media, it’s unlikely that you missed the recent headlines about a judge who suggested to an alleged rape victim that she should have closed her legs to prevent the assault.
The New York Times reported on April 6 that the New Jersey judge who made the comments could be suspended without pay for 3 months.
The judge, John F. Russo Jr., not only made this suggestion to the woman, but did so after grilling and villainizing her. He asked, “Do you know how to stop somebody from having intercourse with you?” according to the Times, and continued to pressure her into admitting some wrongdoing of her own.
She answered him that she would tell somebody “no” to stop them from assaulting her and then try to physically harm the attacker, after which she would again ask them to stop and run away. The superior court judge from Ocean County pressured her: “What else?”
As if there isn’t enough wrong with this scenario as is, I’ll just stop here to say that there is no “what else."
This sad commentary, played out in much more detail in the Times article and across other platforms, represents the problem in our society that excuses wrongdoers and vilifies the victims.
More than that, a person in a position of power in our justice system reduced rape and sexual assault to “intercourse” and had the nerve to suggest that saying “no” isn’t enough.
This is male privilege at its finest-- this idea that the female body is up for grabs and is little more than property for free enjoyment. This ideology must be challenged with more than a petty three-month suspension.
A hearing will be held in July to discuss the judge’s misconduct.
The Times article quoted Russo’s lawyer, David F. Corrigan, as saying, “Judge Russo looks forward to a public hearing in which he will be able to respond to the allegations against him. We have respect for the process as well as the advisory committee on judicial conduct, and therefore won’t comment further.”
The respect for the process that this judge has in anticipation of his own hearing is something he denied the victims he chose to re-victimize in his courtroom. For that, a three-month suspension is a light slap on the wrist, and certainly much less than he deserves.