While the media has been flooded with victim-blaming and victim-shaming stories ever since the rise of the #MeToo movement, this one snuck its way under the rug. In May 2016, John F. Russo, a New Jersey judge took victim-blaming to a whole other level when he asked the victim what she did to prevent the attack from occurring.
Regarding the case in question, a victim of sexual assault was seeking to take out a restraining order against the man who allegedly assaulted her. The victim and the perpetrator share a daughter together.
According to the court transcript, Russo asked questions to the victim such as “[Did you] close your legs? Call the police? Did you do any of those things?”
In addition to his ridiculous line of questioning, the judge chose to reduce the amount of back alimony owed by the man involved in the case from $10,000 to just $300.
From this line of questioning came a complaint stating that the judge had mistreated the victim with his questions that lacked empathy and courtesy.
The New Jersey Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct examined the incident along with three other alleged code violations in a complaint against Superior Court Judge John F. Russo, and in May, he was placed on paid administrative leave.
Supposedly, this decision came after he allegedly threw a file at a female law clerk, although there are other previous complaints about his behavior. Superior Court Assignment Judge Marlene Lynch Ford has told Russo he can not return to work until he submits to and passes a psychiatric evaluation.
While some can write this event off and say that it was purely based on the actions of one judge, victim-blaming and victim-shaming is real. Instead of asking women what they were wearing or why they didn’t do more to prevent the attack from happening, why are the perpetrators in these situations held to the same standards? Why are men never questioned about their sexual history or former partners?
More importantly, why do we allow judges who abuse their power to badger victims with heartless, irrelevant questions to keep their positions and go on paid leave? Although Judge John F. Russo seems to have been punished, going on a paid leave is not punishment whatsoever.