There has been widespread outrage in New Zealand after the defense lawyer in a rape trial told the jury that the victim should have “closed her legs.”
Keith Jefferies told the jury in the Wellington District Court:
“All she would have had to do was to close her legs. It’s as simple as that. Why didn’t she do that? The reason she didn’t do that was because the sex was consensual, as easy as that.”
Jefferies’ client, George Jason Pule, was convicted of rape on Wednesday. He had approached the 20 year-old victim on a night out in Wellington, inviting her to a nightclub where he said he was meeting some friends. Instead he dragged her down an alleyway and raped her.
Speaking for the Wellington Rape Crisis Center Natalie Gousmett said:
“It is an example of victim-blaming comments and rape culture, which we’ve seen all too much in the last week and a half. It’s very offensive obviously, and harmful for the victim and her family.”
The remarks echo those of some politicians and lawyers in the United States in cases of rape and sexual assault. During the 2012 election, Todd Akin, a Republican congressional candidate, referred to some rape cases as being “legitimate rape.” This year Americans Against the Tea Party reported on a case involving the gang-rape of a female midshipman in the US Navy. In that case, the defense lawyer cross-examined the victim by asking her to describe her oral sex technique to the court, and asked whether or not she considered herself “a hoe” after a separate consensual sexual encounter.
The World Health Organization estimates that a staggering one in three females around the world will be sexually and/or physically abused in their lifetime. This makes it the most serious public health crisis in the world. Rigorous cross-examination is essential to any open judicial system, especially in the most serious cases such as those involving rape or murder. However, these disgusting remarks were way over the line and trivialize what actually happens during a sexual assault.