Superior Court Judge Derek Johnson who said a woman's body "shuts down" to prevent rape "if someone doesn't want to have sexual intercourse" has found himself in judicial hot water for the remark made during a 2008 rape case. Johnson joins a growing list of male public officials to be embroiled in controversy over comments comments regarding rape and the female body.
Johnson was publicly admonished
by California's Commission on Judicial Performance on a 10-0 vote. The panel called Johnson's comments inappropriate and a breach of judicial ethics, according to the Associated Press.
The 2008 rape case involved a woman who waited 17 days to report an ex-boyfriend's sexual assault, despite having told police immediately after the incident of the man's threat to mutilate her face and genitals with a heated screwdriver if she did not submit to oral copulation and intercourse.
During the boyfriend's sentencing, Johnson said, "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."
Following the reprimand, Johnson apologized for his remark, which he described as inappropriate.
A former prosecutor for the Orange County district attorney's sex crimes unit, Johnson claimed the remark was a result of his frustration over a disagreement with the state's prosecutor, who he felt had requested a sentence that was not authorized by the law.
The prosecution's request for a 16-year sentence for the rapist was turned down by Johnson, who issued a six-year sentence instead, saying that’s what he felt the case was "worth."
The argument that a victim's body can prevent rape is related to the inaccurate belief by some that a raped woman can prevent herself from getting pregnant on the biological level.
The issue became a part of the 2012 Presidential election when two Republican politicians running for office argued similar points.
In August, Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, a pro-life candidate speaking about abortion in an interview, said: "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." In an unsuccessful attempt to clarify his position, Akin later said he "misspoke" in the remark, adding he has a "deep empathy . . . for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year."
Akin lost to Missouri's incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in the general election.
Several months later, another Republican senate candidate, Richard Mourdock, who was running in Indiana, tripped himself up in a similar fashion.
While explaining why he opposed abortion even in cases of rape Mourdock said, "I believe that life begins at conception . . . I came to realize life is that gift from God that I think even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."
Despite immediately clarifying that he felt the creation of life was a gift from God and not the rape, the damage was done.
Mourdock lost his bid for Indiana's senate seat to Democrat Joe Donnelly.
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