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Creating a Culture of Shame and Re-Victimization

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Told by a judge she should have “walked out” of an abusive relationship and never to call police if she goes back to her former partner, a London woman has complained to Ontario’s judicial watchdog. … The judge dismissed the charges of assault, uttering threats and mischief against White’s former partner but told her modern women are “not weak and disadvantaged” and she should have been gone “in a flash.”

[Source: Judge’s advice angers battered woman, The London Free Press, October 8, 2008]

Well. I feel like vomiting, how about you?

Justice Pockele to the accused (man): “As I listen to the evidence, she has told me something that is a little more believable than yours, but I have to decide that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Probably. You are an extremely jealous individual. She has got some bruises on her arms…I am not going to decide the case on that basis.”

According to Justice Pockele, the accused was “probably” guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. And yet the judge dismissed the charges? Well, see, he wasn’t going to decide the case on the basis of the physical evidence of the bruises on the defendant’s arms. Why the hell not? Why weren’t the charges (laid by the police, of assault, threatening to kill White, and threatening to cut her dog in half) and the physical evidence combined with the judge’s own belief of the accused’s guilt enough?

Oh, right, because Justice Pockele seems to like to blame the victim.

“Thirty years ago…there were all sorts of women in houses where men had beaten them, husbands had beaten them regularly, and they could not get out,” the court transcript shows Pockele said. “They did not have jobs to go to and they had kids, and they were trapped. There was no way to stand up and get out, and we were trying to help the weak and the disadvantaged, but modern women are not weak and disadvantaged…”

How awesome for White that she is a modern woman with all those advantages, like a judge who will help her. Oh, wait.

Violence against women was never a case of them being weak and disadvantaged as Justice Pockele implies. It always was and still is a case of their abuser seeking power and control. It never was and never will be the fault of the abused. Never.

Justice Pockele shows an amazing lack of knowledge about domestic violence. The focus is not and should not be on “why doesn’t she leave?” It ought to be on “why does he do that?” and “why won’t he stop?” (With a special side order today of “why is Justice Pockele so astoundingly unqualified to hear these sorts of cases?” and “why hasn’t anything been done about him?”)

White attempted to stand up. She called the police, charges were pressed, and her case went to court. Then Justice Pockele, instead of continuing to help her stand up—as he seems to insist women do—re-victimized her by publicly humiliating her in his court for, apparently, not acting exactly as he would have wanted her to act.

But that isn’t all. The Justice also refused further help to White if she were victimized by this same man again, even though he does believe the abuse occurred.

Justice Pockele to the defendant (woman) and the accused (man): “I want you to know I do not disbelieve either one of you, but do not ever come back into a court in this province with a problem if the two of you go back and live with each other again. Do not come back here. I am telling you right now you have to take care of your own stuff. Do not bring it into a criminal court. Do not be calling the police to mop it up.”

“Take care of your own stuff,” he said. Don’t go looking for help. Stay at home, hide your victimization, and just take it because if you go back it’ll be all your fault. Again, no. I can’t say this enough: It will never be White’s fault if she is abused. Not even if she attempts to reconcile with the accused.

This attitude of Justice Pockele’s, that of do not seek help when you are battered, take care of your own stuff, contributes to the culture of silence that aids abusers in what they do. It makes the victims of abuse ashamed of what has been done to them, it makes them believe even more than they possibly already do that the abuse was their fault, and it makes them too afraid to ever seek help again. In a culture like that, where victims are ashamed and unable to ask for help, these victims could easily end up dead.

White did ask for help. She asked, and when she got to Justice Pockele’s court room she was denied, humiliated, and further victimized. I’d say women haven’t come very far from thirty years ago, have they?

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