You may remember the argument, which caused public outrage, over the belief that a body just “shuts down” when a woman is not subjected to real rape. A judge used this same language in a California case, and was admonished for showing bias – a trait that runs afoul of judicial ethics. These are the relevant parts of the article published in the ABA Journal News.
Judge Derek Johnson, from Orange County, California, was publicly admonished for saying a sexual assault victim had suffered only a “technical” rape and didn’t display vaginal damage characteristic of rape victims he had encountered as a prosecutor.
Judge Derek Johnson of Orange County had advanced his theory on body shutdowns during rape in a 2008 sentencing hearing, according to the opinion (PDF) by the California Commission on Judicial Performance. The judicial discipline opinion has a transcript of his explanation why:
Johnson: “I spent my last year and a half in the DA’s office in the sexual assault unit. I know something about sexual assault. I’ve seen sexual assault. I’ve seen women who have been ravaged and savaged whose vagina was shredded by the rape. I’m not a gynecologist, but I can tell you something: If someone doesn’t want to have sexual intercourse, the body shuts down. The body will not permit that to happen unless a lot of damage is inflicted, and we heard nothing about that in this case. That tells me that the victim in this case, although she wasn’t necessarily willing, she didn’t put up a fight. And to treat this case like the rape cases that we all hear about is an insult to victims of rape. I think it’s an insult. I think it trivializes a rape.”
Johnson: “I just found the threats to be technical threats. I found this whole case to be a technical case. The rape is technical. The forced oral copulation is technical. It’s more of a crim law test than a real live criminal case.”
The commission said Johnson’s remarks reflected biased and insensitive views about sexual assault victims who do not “put up a fight.” Johnson had apologized for the remarks to the commission, saying he was frustrated by a sentencing request he considered inappropriate under the law. He remains on the bench.