Arizona Cop Gropes Woman, Victim-Blaming Ensues

A police officer walks into a bar, flashes his badge and gropes a woman. Who gets the strict talking-to in court? The assaulted woman, of course.

Robb Gary Evans, a 43-year-old Department of Public Safety officer, was convicted of groping a woman at a Flagstaff bar, the Arizona Daily Sun reports. According to prosecutors, Evans drank eight beers before driving himself to the Green Room, a local bar and concert venue. After flashing his badge in lieu of paying the cover charge, Evans walked up to the victim—described as a “friend of a friend”—reached his hand up her skirt and touched her genitals. As bouncers kicked him out of the club, Evans reportedly threatened them with arrest.

However, only Evans was arrested. He faced up to two-and-a-half years in prison, but was sentenced last Wednesday to two years of probation, receiving credit for the four days of jail time he already served. Evans will not register as a sex offender, but following an internal investigation he was fired from the Department of Public Safety.

In the midst of his trial, victim-blaming reared its ugly head. Coconino County Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Hatch (appointed in 2010 by Gov. Jan Brewer of SB 1070 fame) told the victim,

If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you.

What we have here is the age-old “Women Are Responsible for Anything Bad that Happens to Them Once They Leave the House” argument: A woman goes to a bar, bad things sometimes happen at bars, so therefore it’s her fault that something bad did happen.

Hatch insisted that she wasn’t putting the blame on the victim, but that didn’t stop her from espousing some patronizing moral lessons:

I hope you look at what you’ve been through and try to take something positive out of it. You learned a lesson about friendship and you learned a lesson about vulnerability.

With all the recent talk about legitimate and non-legitimate rapes, let’s address what happens when a woman reports a rape or sexual assault: The go-to question is typically, “What were you wearing?” followed by, “Were you drinking?” and “Were you alone?” If a man is assaulted, are these same questions asked?

The other sadly predictable part of the Arizona story is the community’s response to the Evans’ conviction: widespread support for the police officer and condemnation of the sexual abuse victim. Judge Hatch admitted that her decision to give Evans probation instead of a prison sentence was in part influenced by friends and family. Evans’ former partner said in support,

These people put their lives on the line every day. I hope you’ll be lenient on him. To me, this is one way we can give a little back to those in law enforcement who give so much to us everyday.

Those close to Evans argued that keeping him from hunting, his most treasured hobby, is punishment enough, and that forcing him to register as a sex offender or sentencing him to jail time would be excessive. Said Evans’ former partner:

His losses at this point go farther than anything that could be handed down here.

Furthermore, the victim reportedly told the court that friends and other community members told her that she was wrong in prosecuting Evans because his life could be “ruined” with a conviction. In Arizona, it’s not the sexual predator’s fault that his life is in shambles; it’s somehow the victim’s.

At least Coconino County Attorney David Rozema defended the victim:

Victims need to feel safe to report and assist prosecution. They bear no responsibility for the actions of those who commit sex crimes against them. Offenders alone must be held accountable.

He added that the victim’s prosecution has empowered other victims of sexual abuse to report their abuses as well.

A Change.org petition calling for Hatch’s resignation over the handling of the verdict was posted on Sept. 6, and has received more than 15,000 signatures to date.

Hatch has since offered a public apology and declared,

I … believe victims should not be blamed for coming forward to report crimes.

But, according to County spokesman Nathan Gonzalez, she does not plan on resigning.

Photo from Flickr user conner395 under Creative Commons 3.0.

Comments

  1. 1) That comment by the judge was so wrong, but in reading other articles about this incident, I also read that the judge later used the sentencing as opportunity to comment on all women being vigilant when out. Yes, why should women HAVE to be vigilant? Why can’t they just go shopping or at a bar? Well, society is evolved but not that evolved and women do need to be aware of surrounding.

    2) Also, just some minor points. If the defendant maximum was only 2.5 years, then most likely (assuming no prior criminal history b/c he was a cop), then probation was not a sentence the judge had to jump through hurdles to give. I know in MANY states (not sure of Arizona) felonies on the low range (4th degree, 3rd degree) often have presumption AGAINST incarceration. Thus, if it was a grope (horrible horrible crime) but no bodily injury/kidnapping/penetration/etc, then probation might have been an appropriate sentence (given any combination of unknown mitigating and aggravating factors). Not knowing all the facts (which no one does), I have to imagine probation was appropriate.

    3) Asking if the victim was drinking is perfectly appropriate during trial if she testified because it goes to challenging her credibility on the stand.

    4) It is perfectly appropriate to have individuals speak at a sentencing on behalf of the defendant. Having worked in criminal justice, I can say that it’s nice/important to hear from friends and family at a sentencing because you get a full picture of who the defendant is. Finally, I have many friends who have been to jail/arrested/convicted of various crimes. While none are individuals who have committed sexual assault (rather regular assault, aggravated assault, theft, robbery, drug offenses), I can say that for some, the incidents were anomolies and the individual learned what they did wrong. Other individuals were addicts and thought what they did was okay when they did it. I bring this up because I have known individuals who have hurt people and themselves. This doesn’t mean it’s wrong to speak in support of a friend or family member at a sentencing. It doesn’t condone their actions but are acts of friends and family trying to help a loved one. Should we just write off any person ever committed of a crime and never speak to them again???

    • Lou Ann Ryan says:

      How shameful it is that this archaic notion that the woman “brought” this action upon herself is again becoming an acceptable excuse for a male’s lecherous behavior. It seems that all the gains that were achieved were for not.

      • I disagree with you because I don’t think the comment was that the woman brought it upon herself. As Evelyn said in her comment, the judge’s statement was inappropriate.

        I see the comment really as a remark about women staying vigilant and aware of their surroundings. In an ideal world would we all (men and women) be able to go and do whatever we want and not have to be in fear of being victim of a crime? Yes, but we don’t live in that world. We all have the right to do what we want and be where we want but for our safety we must always be aware of where we are, who we are with, and what’s happening around us. I say that to kids, friends, and family. Such words of caution are not meant to imply fault, but rather are meant to keep us safe.

  2. Agree, it is like this excuse is, well….this man protects us as a society therefore his reward is to not have to follow the laws he pledged to uphold, if it regards a woman, in a bar and he happens to be drunk….? Lovely…

  3. Evelyn McMullen says:

    The sentence was probably appropriate. What was not appropriate were the judge’s remarks to and about the victim. She was the victim, after all.

  4. The Judge’s remarks were inappropriate, her statement in court and her half-apology. It’s clear she still doesn’t get what was wrong, not really. This isn’t a person who should be sitting as a Judge. After all, if it hadn’t been the woman who was assaulted, it’s likely the perpetrator would have picked a different victim. It could just as easily have been anyone at the bar. Are all of us who are female supposed to stay home unless escorted by chaperons to “appropriate places”? Is that supposed to keep us safe? If so, I strongly suggest that this Judge take some time to learn who really commits sexual assaults (hint: perpetrators are often known by their victims) and that it often occurs in places we’d think were safe (like our homes, friends’ homes, our partners’ or dates’ homes, our workplaces, etc.) rather than by complete strangers in places like bars.

  5. Robb Gary Evans is a male sexual predator who has been convicted of sexually assaulting a woman. He exploited his position of trust in order to gain free access to a club. Plus he claimed his job as a police officer supercedes his crime of male sexual violence committed against a woman.

    What was this male doing at a club? He should have been home being supervised by women. If men are indeed ‘oversexed sluts’ then they are the ones who should be subjected to curfews and told they must not enter women’s public spaces without a team of females supervising all his movements.

    Male police officer committed sexual violence against a woman and it is irrelevant he was supposedly an ‘upstanding pillar of community’ – he committed a crime and has been convicted. The sentence he received is just a slap on wrist and he will continue like innumerable men, to subject women and girls to male sexual harassment and male sexual violence because men are never accountable and responsible for their actions/behaviour are they? Instead it is we women who are expected to remain inside men’s private spheres (the home) because we supposedly ‘invite’ males to subject us to male sexual violence.

    Long live Male Supremacy and male domination over all women – because that is precisely what is being advocated by Judge Hatch and convicted sexual predator Robb Gary Evans.

  6. It’s disgusting how this case was handled. It is so wrong how the victim was treated so badly for reporting this sexual assault crime. It’s disturbing how the assailant who’s job is to uphold the law could get a very light sentence and not have to register as a sex offender.

  7. The person who appointed Judge Hatch, Gov. Jan Brewer, should definitely be fired for this and many other actions.

    Judge Hatch’s comment indicates she also believes that if President Kennedy hadn’t been in Dallas he wouldn’t have been killed and that all the women who have been murdered would have been safe if they just hadn’t been where they were at the time they were murdered, so it was their fault.

    The judge made it clear she condones an injustice system in which women are second-class citizens who don’t deserve equal pay with men, the right to make their own health decisions or equal rights with men, the wealthy or the powerful.

    • Betty…

      You have hit the nail on the head. Jan Brewer is easily one of the most evil people in government ever in this country, and the fact that so many people in Arizona voted for her is unbelievable. We all know how racist and anti-immigrant she is, and now, by appointing people like Hatch, she has proved herself to be an enemy of women also.

      And with Sheriff Joe Arpaio flauting laws and being a major birther, is it any surprise that many people, including myself, are boycotting Arizona? Unless you have family there and absolutely need to go there, don’t go to Arizona!

      • I agree that Brewer and Arpaio need to be out on their bums immediately, but please don’t encourage people to boycott an entire state for their actions. Speaking as a 3rd generation Arizonan who is actively working to get both of these atrocities out of office, we as residents feel the sting of the “we hate Az” movement. Many small, family owned businesses have had to shut down because our tourism is suffering. The idiots we have in office are to blame because they’re driving people away, but that doesn’t mean we should just be Hung out to dry until we manage to unseat them. Unfortunately, a lot of the people working hardest to do so are also some of those hit hardest in the pocket by these boycotts. It’s really tough to fight people like Arpaio and Brewer when you’re already fighting just to keep your house and feed your kids. If people are pissed off at Az politicians and their policies, the answer isn’t to avoid spending a penny here; the answer is to support groups and candidates who want to change our course.

        • I understand what you are saying, and I suppose maybe I was a bit too harsh, but the other side of the problem is who to support, business-wise. If anyone goes to Arizona, how do you know for sure you are supporting real POSITIVE family businesses?
          Sure, you aren’t going to necessarily patronise large chains, but how do I know that the mom-and-pop store, or restaurant on the corner aren’t supporters of SB1070? I would imagine most Latino businesses aren’t, but otherwise, what do you do?
          And, where do you stay? Where do you get gas? And other things? I don’t want to support businesses who are actively against the people.
          Maybe you’ve done this already, but a list of ‘good’ businesses and ‘bad’ ones would be something that would make it easier for people to go to Arizona and not feel like their money is spend helping some people to discriminate and hurt others

  8. Personally, I believe that both women and men should be vigilant.

    But it’s not clear to me what vigilant has to do with this. Am I supposed to run away from cops when I see them?

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