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On Aug. 17, 2008, an Ottawa waitress in her early 20’s came down with some abdominal pain, so she left her early-morning shift to check into the emergency room at a local hospital. There, the woman alleged, an emergency room orderly repeatedly entered her exam room, ogled her, asked if she had a boyfriend, grazed her butt as he changed her sheets, looked up her skirt, then groped her breast beneath her shirt and called her beautiful. When the case went to court, Judge Robert Fournier convicted the orderly of sexual assault—-and cited the victim’s attractiveness as evidence.
According to the Ottawa Sun:
Testifying through an Ethiopian-dialect interpreter, [the defendant] denied doing anything but his job and said he didn’t even remember the woman until confronted by hospital officials.
He refused to agree with prosecutor Paul Attia that the woman was attractive, insisting he only found his wife beautiful.
Fournier scoffed at that.
“If 50 men, self-respecting, objective men, men who respect women, were to view (the woman), however briefly, they would conclude that she meets the standard of an attractive woman, at least in the city of Ottawa,” Fournier said.
The accused refused to admit it because he knew it would bolster her account he was showing her “undue attention,” Fournier argued.
“Here is a woman, relatively attractive, scantily dressed in a miniskirt, at times she is lying on the bed, exposing a great deal of her leg,” Fournier said.
“This accused refuses to acknowledge he noticed that. In my view this is virtually impossible.”
Strangely, the Sun piece does not mention any additional facts in the case that may have led to the orderly’s conviction. As far as this account is concerned, the woman’s appearance alone was enough to stick the guy with a sexual assault conviction.
I agree that claiming, in a court of law, that you are only capable of recognizing your wife’s beauty is a pretty stupid defense. But it’s depressing that even as a judge convicts a man of sexual assault, he insists upon reinforcing the most victim-blaming sentiments about women bringing unwanted attention onto themselves based on how they look and what they’re wearing. When a judge uses the word “scantily” in his description of a victim, you know you’re in trouble. (She was coming straight from work, remember). And the idea that a woman exposing “a great deal of leg”—-in a hospital exam room—-is just too tempting for a medical professional to ignore is ridiculous.
But Fournier didn’t stop there—-he then launched into a little hot-or-not scenario in open court. If he were to invite 50 regular dudes to come in and ogle this sexual assault victim, most would agree that she “meets the standard of an attractive woman”—-well, at least for Ottawa! (Because she’s not that hot, amirite?). Way to re-victimize a sexual assault victim even while convicting her assailant, Judge Fournier.