Judge Gets 3-Month Suspension for Telling Rape Victim She Should Have Closed Her Legs
In 2016, a woman went to court to try and get a restraining order against a man she said sexually assaulted her. Unfortunately, she had to appear before Superior Court Judge John Russo, who sits on the bench in Ocean County in southern New Jersey.
According to a transcript of the exchange in court, the woman had to describe how the rape happened.
Russo asked her, “Do you know how to stop somebody from having intercourse with you?”
The woman said she did and that running away is sometimes an option. Then, Russo suggested the woman basically let the rape happen to her.
“Close your legs? Call the police? Did you do any of those things?” Russo asked the victim, as if any of those could actually stop a man from an assault.
Russo has been on administrative leave since 2017. An ethics committee finally recommended that Russo get only a three-month, unpaid suspension for humiliating a rape survivor in court.
Russo said he didn’t violate any rules and that he was just looking for more information about the assault. However, the ethics committee found that Russo has a long history of violating rules of conduct.
Russo previously acted as a judge on an alimony cause where he knew both of the parties personally. Another judge had ruled that the man would have a warrant out for him unless he paid $10,000 in back alimony. Russo reduced that to a mere $300.
Russo will also have to attend a training on “appropriate courtroom demeanor.”
Russo’s comments were derogatory and humiliating, as well as a re-victimization of the assault survivor. This type of response from men, blaming victims for a rapist’s actions, keeps people from reporting assaults.
The National Crime Victimization Survey found that Seventy-seven percent of incidents of rape and sexual assault were not reported to the police in 2017. Eight-four percent of all rape victims are women.
The survey also found that the majority of existing literature on sexual violence underrepresents racial and ethnic and minority groups, and that only 23 percent of incidents of rape and sexual assault were reported to the police. Largely because of the shame, stigma and fault directed at the victims throughout every phase of the system.