California Judge Rebuked For Suggesting Women’s Bodies Can Shut Down Rape

A California superior court judge faces public admonishment this week after he said a rape victim “didn’t put up a fight” against her rapist and claimed that a woman’s body “will not permit [rape] to happen.”

In 2008, Superior Court Judge Derek Johnson tried to make the case that the woman in his court couldn’t have been raped because she showed no signs of physical harm. The woman, however, didn’t report the attack until 17 days after it occurred and not all rape is physically violent. Johnson ultimately sentenced the perpetrator of the rape to six years in prison, as opposed to the 16 requested by the prosecutor, downplayed the assault, and said that the crime was only “worth” six:

Johnson made the comments in the case of a man who threatened to mutilate the face and genitals of his ex-girlfriend with a heated screwdriver, beat her with a metal baton and made other violent threats before committing rape, forced oral copulation, and other crimes.[…]

“I’m not a gynecologist, but I can tell you something: If someone doesn’t want to have sexual intercourse, the body shuts down. The body will not permit that to happen unless a lot of damage is inflicted, and we heard nothing about that in this case,” Johnson said.

The California Commission on Judicial Performance voted Thursday 10-0 to admonish Johnson, saying that he violated ethics.

Johnson’s comments are reminiscent of the recent assertion by Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) that rape victims cannot become pregnant because women’s bodies have a way to “shut the whole thing down.” Both assertions are reflection of a broader rape culture, the idea that women are somehow at fault for a rape, and that some other behavioral attribute effects whether she is perceived as a victim or a woman who is “asking for it.”