By Marcia Barhydt

I was reading an article in my local paper here in Toronto, written by veteran reporter Antonia Zerbisias, about the prevalence of some provincial judges who are still poo-pooing the significance of the impact of rape by handing out very light sentences and by even suggesting that women can be responsible for their own rape.

I thought we’d dealt with this whole unspeakably ugly mindset a number of years ago, but it seems I’m mistaken and this discrimination is still ok, this affront to every victim is barely worth punishment and even that rape is a result of and condoned by the way the woman dresses. As Zerbisias so smartly puts it, “Victim blaming and slut shaming still figure in the justice system.”

1. A Toronto police constable spoke to university students and suggest they not dress “like sluts” to avoid rape.
2. A month ago a prominent Justice gave a convicted rapist a minor conditional sentence because he was a “clumsy Don Juan” lured by his victim’s tube top, high heels and makeup, which he referred to as “inviting circumstances.”
3. Less than 2 years ago another Justice gave a nine month probation sentence, referring to the victim’s beating and rape as “rough play, an opportunistic event.”
4. A minister who runs a homeless shelter confirmed that six rapes happened in the previous week and said that “Some women put themselves at risk because of the way they dress or move around the building, drawing attention to themselves.”

If I could write this all off as the final days of old boys club thinking, then it might hold a promise of better days after their retirement, but I wonder if this is still just the tip of the iceberg, indicative of the prejudicial perception of younger men and women everywhere. Is it possible that this discriminatory, bigoted, parochial bias can still be common, even predominant?

Who’s watching the judges and ministers and police officers here; who’s speaking for the victim, either female or male, here? Who’s helping to finally make right the necessary appropriate treatment of rapists on behalf of their victims?

WE Magazine for Women is read online all over the world. What if we, from wherever our home is, took some time to learn about sentencing standards in our own area? What if we then wrote to our politicians, learned their stand on this age-long issue, started a grass roots movement to end this ridiculous unacceptable mindset. What if we all stopped allowing this, turning the other cheek?

I’m a woman of a certain age, and I’m certain that rape is never the fault of the victim, and I’m certain that this unspeakable travesty need to end. Now.

©Marcia Barhydt, 2011