A sexual assault victim who was groped by an off-duty police officer is demanding an apology from an Arizona judge who during a sentencing hearing for the defendant told her: "If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you.”
Coconino County Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Hatch.
An online petition drive launched on Change.org, a popular website for social activism, has garnered more than 4,600 supporters nationwide calling for Coconino County Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Hatch to resign for her remarks during a court hearing on Wednesday.
Hatch, a Republican appointed by Gov. Jan Brewer in June 2010, did not return a telephone call from NBC News seeking comment. The woman's name was withheld because she is a victim of a sexual crime.
According to the Arizona Daily Sun, a jury convicted 43-year-old Robb Gary Evans of a felony charge of sexual abuse on July 2. Prosecutors said Evans walked up behind the victim in a Flagstaff bar, put his hand up her skirt and groped her last summer. The former Arizona Department of Public Safety officer had been facing a maximum sentence of up to 2 ½ years in prison, but received two years of probation, community service and treatment. He was fired after his conviction.
The Daily Sun's account of the court hearing:
Bad things can happen in bars, Hatch told the victim, adding that other people might be more intoxicated than she was.
"If you wouldn't have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you," Hatch said.
Hatch told the victim and the defendant that no one would be happy with the sentence she gave, but that finding an appropriate sentence was her duty.
"I hope you look at what you've been through and try to take something positive out of it," Hatch said to the victim in court. "You learned a lesson about friendship and you learned a lesson about vulnerability."
Hatch said that the victim was not to blame in the case, but that all women must be vigilant against becoming victims.
"When you blame others, you give up your power to change," Hatch said that her mother used to say.
The victim said Hatch's comments were inappropriate, adding that she felt Hatch was accusing her of allowing herself to become a victim.
"It felt like she was saying to me, 'If you wouldn't have been there that night, it wouldn't have happened to you.' Yeah, well, it probably would have happened to someone else," the victim told the Daily Sun during a telephone interview.
“I’m still kind of in shock that she said that to me,” the victim said. “Coming from a woman, I would expect her to be a little bit more realistic about women being strong and independent and the fact that there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Hatch's comments have caused an uproar in Flagstaff, the Daily Sun reported.
“It takes a lot to come forward, to ask for help, to share the details of a traumatic event with strangers,” Kris Stark, executive director of Victim/Witness Services for Coconino County, told the Daily Sun. “The message from Victim Witness to a sexual assault survivor is that you are not responsible for an unwanted, uninvited assault on your body.”
Hatch, who was elected to a full term in November 2010, is up for reelection in 2014.
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