A Judge Actually Asked a Sexual Assault Victim: "Why Couldn't You Just Keep Your Knees Together?"

Canadian judge Robin Camp is under investigation for how he handled the case.

(Image credit: Archive)

Last year, a Canadian judge named Robin Camp presided over a sexual assault case. A 19-year-old homeless woman had accused a man, who weighed 100 pounds more than she did, of sexually assaulting her in a bathroom at a house party. Camp acquitted the man, but not before humiliating the defendant in court, and CTV News (opens in new tab) reports that he's now being investigated for the comments. 

Camp asked the alleged victim, whom he kept mislabeling as the defendant, demeaning questions like, "Why did you just sink your bottom down into the basin so he couldn't penetrate you?" and "Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?" And that wasn't all: He also told her that "sex and pain sometimes go together [and] that's not necessarily a bad thing." According to CBC News (opens in new tab), he openly mocked Canada's consent laws, which require that both parties make sure the other is consenting, asking prosecutors, "Well can you show me one of these places it says that there's a some kind of incantation that has to be gone through? Because it's not the way of the birds and the bees." 

He has since been promoted to the Federal Court of Canada, but that status may now be in jeopardy. The Alberta Court of Appeals ordered a new trial because they think Camp may have "misapprehended the evidence" and lacked an adequate understanding of sexual assault laws. "Sexual stereotypes and stereotypical myths, which have long since been discredited, may have found their way into the trial judge's judgment," the court said. According to the Calgary Herald (opens in new tab), the Canadian Judicial Council has received around 500 letters complaining about Camp, and he has been placed under judicial review. He could face anything from a reprimand to outright dismissal, though only Parliament can remove a judge from the bench. For now, Camp cannot handle any case that has to do with sexual conduct.

Camp has apologized for his comments, and says he will take sensitivity classes on his own time. "I have come to recognize that things that I said and attitudes I displayed during the trial of this matter, and in my decision, caused deep and significant pain to many people," he said in a statement (opens in new tab). To the extent that what I have said discourages any person from reporting abuse, or from testifying about it, I am truly sorry. I will do all in my power to learn from this and to never repeat these mistakes." 

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Megan Friedman
Megan Friedman

Megan Friedman is the former managing editor of the Newsroom at Hearst. She's worked at NBC and Time, and is a graduate of Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism.