Allegations of rape seem to bring out all the arm-chair “experts” who talk as if they know the truth about what “really” happened and are not meek about sharing their “expertise” with the rest of us. I, who have spent my entire professional life (about 30 years) working in the field of sexual trauma, have more questions than answers. Mostly, I feel bad that this case came to light before the alleged victim was ready to deal with it.

A short time ago, a judge, who told a friend she was raped by a police officer she met on an Internet dating site, was apparently transferred from her position on the bench and pressured into laying charges. She refuses to this day. The police officer denies that he raped her, claiming the sex was consensual. While the police investigated, without the alleged victim’s statement they are limited in their ability to get to the truth and the file was closed.

Without details that could identify the judge and the police officer, the issue was reported in the news just a few days ago. Talk-backs are filled with myths about rape, rapists and victims. Some people said she cried rape because he rejected her, or that she was looking for attention (really? but nobody knows who she is). There are those who suggested that this case shows how the jails are filled with innocents somehow found guilty of sexual offences.

Others assume he is guilty and said that, as a judge, she should set a good example for women and lay charges. Still others claimed that her refusal to do so is an indictment of the legal system because if she, who is so familiar with the courts, refuses to press charges against the man she says raped her, then that must mean that something is terribly wrong with the system. Many suggested that the judge’s refusal to lay charges will discourage other women from seeking justice for sexual assault.

Zippi Livni suggests that nobody knows the true facts of the case and that the judge has the right to decide on the proper course of action for her own life and circumstances. And here I come to give my own take on the issue:

What everyone seems to ignore is the fact that the judge only told a friend about what happened. The fact that she refuses to lay charges suggests that she did not tell the friend with the intention that the friend would pass the information on to the authorities. She likely told the friend in order not to be alone with what she was feeling, to have a shoulder to cry on. There is no mandated reporting for a crime that was committed against an adult (as another talk-back “expert” claimed); mandated reporting of sexual crimes pertains solely to crimes committed against a minor. By taking this to the police, behind her back, it seems, control of timing, of the outcome, of the very situation, was grabbed out of her hands, and control is a central issue for a survivor of a sexual assault. Was that the right thing for a friend to do?

We might reason that reporting the allegations to the police would serve to prevent that particular police officer from raping other women (as suggested by another commenter). That would work, however, only if he could be found guilty in a court of law. In order for that to happen, the victim would have to face her alleged rapist in court and provide evidence. She obviously is not prepared to do that. Nobody else can do that for her unless they actually witnessed the crime. Or if there is sufficient circumstantial evidence that would render her testimony unnecessary. Besides, is it right to place responsibility for a rapist’s possible future victims on a survivor who is still licking her own emotional (and perhaps physical) wounds?

Unfortunately, rape still causes victims to feel shamed and humiliated. A professional woman (or man) might think that exposure would negatively affect her (or his) professional status among the public or among colleagues. If she is a criminal court judge, can you see sex offenders standing before her in court knowing that she, herself, was raped? Can you see how lawyers on either the prosecution or defense might feel she is inadequate to the job and ask her to excuse herself? Yet, since her identity is not known to other than a select few (I hope), was it legitimate to remove her from her post at this time? The fact that she WAS seems to confirm the belief that someone who is raped will be considered damaged and unfit professionally, thereby justifying her wish not to press charges.

Just because she is a judge does not mean that she has any greater obligation to use the courts than anyone else when it comes to her own personal life. As a sex trauma therapist, I know that it can take quite some time before someone is emotionally prepared to file charges against a rapist. There are confusing feelings to work through – feelings of guilt and shame. For even though a victim is not guilty of having been assaulted, and even if he or she is cognitively aware of that fact, it FEELS to them AS IF they are guilty. And, to tell the truth, many people around them will reinforce their sense of guilt and shame (such as removing them from their current professional position).

The judge must be furious at her friend who saw fit to betray the confidence she had placed in him or her by talking to the police and opening the story up to the rest of the world. Why is nobody talking about that? Why is nobody asking about the duty of the person chosen as confidante after a rape when the victim is an adult (and therefore there is no legal mandate to report the case to the police)? Why is nobody wondering what a rape victim experiences and the process he or she goes through that may or may not lead to the decision to lay charges? Why is everyone so full of answers rather than asking questions?