Victims’ rights advocates in New Zealand on Thursday condemned a defence lawyer who told a rape victim she should have “closed her legs” if she wanted to avoid having sex.
Defence lawyer Keith Jefferies made the remarks when summing up at the trial of his client, a nightclub bouncer who was convicted of rape in Wellington District Court on Wednesday, the Dominion Post reported.
The newspaper said the 20-year-old woman was drunk in the central business district when the bouncer, George Pule, approached her and told her that he could get her into a nightclub where her friends were socialising.
Instead he led her down an alley and raped her, although Jefferies said the victim did not struggle or cry out.
“All she would have had to do was to close her legs... it's as simple as that,” the newspaper quoted him as saying in his closing arguments.
“Why didn't she do that? The reason she didn't do that was because the sex was consensual, as easy as that.”
Natalie Gousmett from the Wellington Rape Crisis Centre said the remarks were "horrific" and attempted to shift the blame for sexual assault onto the victim.
She said the case, and the so-called “Roastbusters” controversy — which involved a group of Auckland youths boasting online about having group sex with underage girls — had thrown a spotlight on attitudes to sexual assault in New Zealand.
“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,” she said.
“It's very offensive obviously, and harmful for the victim and her family.”
Jefferies conceded he had made the comments but said they came while defending his client and did not reflect his personal views.
He said he was quoted out of context and that for anyone to fully understand what he meant they would have had to have attended the entire trial, which involved complex issues of consent.
“If there had been anything unduly wrong with what I said I would've been reprimanded by the judge and also the crown lawyer would have complained,” he told commercial radio Thursday.
“It was relative to the facts of this particular case.”
The controversy came a day after global media picked up Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Ranjit Sinha’s analogy over illegal betting that “if you can't prevent rape, you enjoy it”. Rights groups and political parties demanded that Sinha resign over the statement, which he claimed was ‘inadvertently’ made.
The Dominion Post said prosecutor Geraldine Kelly told the court that the victim, who was not identified, did not fight back because she was petrified of her attacker.
“No, she didn't fight back, she didn't scream her head off, she didn't go running into the street screaming 'Rape!' she said. “But this isn't an American TV show, this is real life. She was scared, and she didn't want to make the situation worse.”
Pule is awaiting sentencing on the rape conviction.