A senior circuit court judge in the United Kingdom angered a local police chief and sympathetic newsreaders around the world after she handed down a controversial sentence and judgment back in March. According to BBC News, Judge Lindsey Kushner sentenced an 18-year-old man to just six years in jail for raping an 18-year-old woman last year in Manchester. Now, the case is back in the news because the judge compared rape to burglary in a troubling explanation of her March judgment.
Last month, Kushner added somewhat of a disclaimer to her sentencing, saying, "I don't think it's wrong for a judge to beg women to take actions to protect themselves." She argued that while there is "absolutely no excuse" for rape, women should be aware that "predatory men" may gravitate toward drunken women. In response, a local police commissioner worried that the judge's sentiment would make it "harder to get women to make reports." The police commissioner called Kushner's comments "victim-blaming."
That was then, this is now, but not much has changed. On Tuesday, Kushner appeared on Good Morning Britain, where she was asked about her previous statements. She maintained that the rapist bears responsibility, but she didn't shy away from the controversy.
We don't like burglars and they shouldn't burgle. But we do close and lock our doors at night and anybody who leaves them open, they're not protecting themselves and their belongings.
In drawing a comparison between burglary and rape, Kushner seemed to say that rape victims bear some responsibility for the incident. The argument was troubling to anchor Susanna Reid, who also stood firm in her opinion.
I think this is part of the problem for some women who were concerned about these comments, is that women often get told that their behavior, the things they're wearing, going out late at night — I mean, historically, these things, women have been told they might reconsider because of what it provokes in men. The fact of the matter is, the only person responsible for rape is the rapist.
Beyond the implication that victims might bear some responsibility for rape, Kushner's comments are troubling for the comparison they make between burglary and rape. A rape victim's body is far from an open house. That's not to minimize the seriousness of burglary, but rather, it's to maximize the seriousness of rape. If there's one thing women — and men — don't need, it's a weakened seriousness surrounding the threat of rape.