Post by Natti Schmid, WAVAW Office Manager
Perpetrators must be held accountable for the violence they commit against women. WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre was awarded intervener status to speak to the impacts that Judge Camp’s words and actions in the court room had on the public’s perception of the efficacy of the legal system. WAVAW and The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic submitted a twenty page document to the Judge Camp Inquiry. This made me feel a strong sense of pride because WAVAW is doing the work necessary to hold perpetrators accountable. WAVAW is often asked to speak in the news and at conferences about sexualized violence and rape culture. WAVAW is not only shifting the discourse and the culture around sexual assault through consistent participation in the media landscape, but is also participating in active accountability processes like the Judge Camp inquiry. While this is powerful and uplifting, the fact that this inquiry is continually being questioned demonstrates why WAVAW’s work is so important and why we have to continue.
In reading the coverage around this trial I found that Camp made such comments as “Sex and pain sometimes go together… that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” and “[The complainant] knew she was drunk…. is not an onus on her to be more careful.” These comments not only demonstrate a complete lack of respect and willful disregard for the experience of the survivor, but they are also regurgitations of archaic rape myths that have absolutely no place in the court room.
The submission that WAVAW put forth notes that Judges are expected to hold a place apart – meaning that Camp is expected to display a commitment to equality and non-discrimination. In making the remarks that he made, Camp isn’t occupying a place apart; he is occupying a position of great power and has situated himself smack dab in the middle of the same ideological framework that we see on campuses, on sports teams, in high schools, in mainstream media, and in pornography. It is the ideology that conflates rape, domination, and violence with sex, and implies that ‘men will be men’ (aka violent sex-driven cavemen). By the same token, women are told to protect themselves from the naturalized behaviors of these men because otherwise, what do women expect to happen? What Camp does not understand is that women are never responsible for the violence committed against them. However infuriating it is that a powerful man holds these ideas, it is not surprising. What is surprising to me is how many people within the judicial system, contributing to the public discourse around this, seem to be willing to uphold the status quo.
In defending Camp during the inquiry – Frank Addario makes the argument that the decision to remove Camp “should be based on a comparison with prior similar cases of judicial misconduct.” Addario then goes on to cite 21 other examples of horrific bigotry in the court room and makes the claim that because multiple other bigoted judges did not occupy ‘a place apart’ and were allowed to keep their seats as Judges, Camp should be allowed to keep his as well. This mirrors the sentiment put forth by lawyers, Kyla Lee and Karen McArthur, interviewed on September 6 by Ian Hanomansing on CBC’s Evening News, Vancouver that Camp’s behavior was ‘troubling but not uncommon’ therefore no reprimands necessary. The idea seems to be ‘if it the judicial system is broken, don’t bother fixing it’.
Who is our legal system for if not the most vulnerable? Why are these lawyers and others content to uphold this terrible legacy? Why are they so afraid of putting in the hard work it takes to be and do better? I am proud that WAVAW is willing to do this work as it paves the way for women who choose to seek justice through the criminal legal system to do so in an environment free of prejudice and misogyny. I am hopeful that our vision for a future where all women are free from violence will slowly infiltrate the psyches of people at all levels of power – because holding perpetrators and systems accountable is essential, and WAVAW can’t do it alone.