This week's example of how not to handle a rape trial comes from New Zealand, where a defense attorney is being criticized for saying a sexually assaulted woman should have kept her legs shut.
Speaking to a Wellington District Court jury on Wednesday, defense lawyer Keith Jefferies claimed that his client, George Jason Pule, a bouncer at a local club, had merely engaged in consensual sex with the victim, as quoted by local paper The Dominion Post.
Jefferies' "proof"? The drunk 20-year-old woman did not attempt to stop Pule's advances after he convinced her to follow him down an alley.
“All she would have had to do was to close her legs," Jefferies told the jury in his closing argument, per the Post. "[I]t’s as simple as that.”
Pule had attempted to claim that the victim had filed a false rape charge because she regretted having sex with him, reports the Post.
Despite his best efforts, Jefferies' client was ultimately convicted on the rape charge and is currently awaiting sentencing.
It's been a difficult month so far for victims advocates in New Zealand, with the Wellington trial following news of an alleged "teen rape club, " known as the "Roast Busters," operating in New Zealand. Members of the group, which is currently being investigated by police, are said to have boasted about getting underage girls drunk and sexually assaulting them. “This whole situation is horrific," Wellington Rape Crisis Center's Natalie Gousmett said in a press release. "First we have the abhorrent behaviour of the members of the rape group, causing serious harm to the victims they have targeted. Then we have appalling coverage by media, including extreme victim-blaming. ... All of this demonstrates the rape culture in [New Zealand], which is extremely harmful to survivors.”
Gousmett went on to note that victims who "are told they are at fault for being raped" are far less likely to come forward and receive the support they need.
In an effort to counteract the problem, advocacy groups have launched a new public service campaign called "Who Are You," urging New Zealanders to keep "an eye on your mates when you're out –- You look after them, they look after you. It's all about having fun and making it home safely."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Natalie Gousmett's surname. We regret the error.