A rape victim is slamming the controversial decision of a Manitoba judge who gave her attacker a lenient sentence on the basis she may have sent out mixed signals about her sexual intentions.
"This is beyond sexist. I don't even know how to comment on it. No woman asks to be raped. I'm so pissed off," the 26-year-old single mother told the Free Press in an exclusive telephone interview Thursday from her rural Manitoba home. "Nobody knows what it was like to be in this position. It's not something I'd ever want to go through again. No woman should have to."
Kenneth Rhodes was given a two-year conditional penalty last week, which allows him to remain free in the community. The Crown wanted at least three years behind bars, citing numerous case precedents suggesting that is the starting point for a major sexual assault.
Queen's Bench Justice Robert Dewar disagreed, saying the victim gave out signs "sex was in the air" through her suggestive attire and flirtatious conduct on the night of the attack. He called Rhodes a "clumsy Don Juan" who may have misunderstood what the woman wanted when he forced intercourse along a darkened highway outside Thompson in 2006.
"That's bulls---t," the victim said Thursday. "I did say no to him. I kept saying no. He knew that I didn't want (sex)."
Rhodes and a friend met the woman and her girlfriend earlier that night outside a bar under what the judge called "inviting circumstances." Dewar specifically noted the women were wearing tube tops with no bra, high heels and plenty of makeup.
"They made their intentions publicly known that they wanted to party," said Dewar. He said the women spoke of going swimming in a nearby lake that night "notwithstanding the fact neither of them had a bathing suit."
"I wasn't dressed like a skank. I was like 20 years old, wearing a tube top. It was summer," said the victim, who cannot be identified as she is the victim of a sexual assault.
The foursome left the parking lot in a vehicle and headed into the woods, court was told. Rhodes began making sexual advances toward the victim, who initially rejected him but later returned his kisses. Rhodes then forced himself upon the woman once they were alone.
"I didn't like the guy. He was beyond creepy, a real pervert," she said Thursday. "He deserves to be behind bars for what he did." She had asked her friend to stop the car to let her out because she no longer wanted to be near Rhodes. Unfortunately, he also exited as the other two drove away, leaving them alone together on the highway.
Rhodes pleaded not guilty at the trial on the basis he thought the woman had consented. Dewar rejected his defence, but said aspects of it could be considered in sentencing.
"This is a different case than one where there is no perceived invitation," said Dewar. "This is a case of misunderstood signals and inconsiderate behaviour." Dewar said he didn't want to be seen as blaming the victim but all of the factors surrounding the case must be viewed to assess "moral blameworthiness."
"I'm sure whatever signals were sent that sex was in the air were unintentional," he said. The Crown has 30 days to file an appeal of Dewar's decision. No decision had been made as of Thursday.
"I hope they appeal. I would like some justice. This is not real justice to me. It's a slap on the wrist," said the victim.
The woman said she has suffered severe psychological trauma from the attack, including trust issues with men and a fear of being alone.
"It's impacted me in so many ways," she said. The woman also bears a permanent reminder of what Rhodes did to her in the form of a scar on her knee, a sign of the violence the much larger man used to restrain her.
Defence lawyer Derek Coggan told court last week it's clear alcohol was a factor for both his client and the victim in terms of their ability to make good judgments. He said Rhodes never threatened the woman, didn't have a weapon and was simply "insensitive to the fact (she) was not a willing participant."
Dewar agreed the case was not "typical" of ones the courts often see and shouldn't be viewed as a precedent.
"There is a different quality to this case than many sexual assaults," he said. "Not all guilty people are morally culpable to the same level. This difference is not to be reflected in conviction. It can be reflected in sentencing."
Rhodes has also been ordered by the judge to write a letter of apology to the victim -- something the woman says she has no interest in reading.