Justice for Rape Victims: Judges Need Training, NJ Lawmaker Says
As outrage continues to build over the comments made by two Family Court judges who downplayed the impact of rape on two girl victims, one Garden State lawmaker is introducing a measure that would require all judges to get sexual assault sensitivity training.
State Sen. Kristin Corrado, R-Passaic, characterized the remarks by Middlesex County Family Court Judge Marcia Silva and Monmouth County Family Court judge James Troiano as “shocking and horrifying.”
Judge Silva had questioned how serious the sex assault of a 12-year-old girl was “beyond losing her virginity” while Judge Troiano wondered out loud if the sexual assault of a drunk 16-year-old girl by a teen boy who recorded the attack with his cell phone should really be considered rape because the boy had good grades and was an Eagle Scout.
The judges were not supposed to be determining the teen suspects' guilt; their comments were made in the context of denying prosecutors' requests to try them as adults.
But Corrado, citing the Townsquare News Network's reporting on the cases, said the comments indicate a serious lack of understanding about the severity of these crimes.
“The comments are just so shocking, there’s definitely a disconnect, we’ve got to do better all around," she said Wednesday. “This is not a solution but maybe a first step, that we need to do a better job training our judges.”
News about the judges sparked outrage worldwide. State lawmakers have condemned the remarks, called for an investigation into the jurists and, like Corrado, have suggested more training.
Citizens outraged by the cases planned to demonstrate 10 a.m. Thursday in front of the Monmouth County Courthouse in Freehold Borough.
"When the news first broke, when I read what the judges said, I was furious, I was heartbroken, I wanted to cry and hide in my bed. Instead, I decided to organize a protest," said Nancy Love, who forks for the progressive New Jersey Working Families Alliance but organized the demonstration independently.
Slated to speak at the event are representatives from the state chapter of the National Organization for Women and the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
"I think that people should keep talking about this because this isn’t just a Judge Troiano or Silva problem ... this is a widespread, prevalent problem. So after this protest, and after we talk about this and gain more attention, I hope legislators can work together on legislation that mandates the training of all the New Jersey judges," Love said.
Patricia Teffenhart, the executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said her organization has been pushing for mandatory judicial training on topics relating to sexual violence for years.
“Ensuring that judges have a contextual and nuanced understanding of the unique trauma of sexual assault victimization is incredibly important,” she said.
Teffenhart noted it’s become obvious some judges in the Garden State “clearly do not have an appropriate survivor-centered framework by which to issue their statements from the bench. And if we wish to hold more perpetrators accountable and give more survivors comfort in moving forward with the criminal justice system, ensuring that our judges have that training will be critical.”
Corrado's bill would require the Administrative Office of the Courts to develop and approve training for Superior Court and Municipal Court judges and judicial personnel on the handling, investigation and response procedures concerning cases with allegations of sexual assault.
Corrado said, hopefully, “by putting a curriculum in place that they’re required to have annually, they’ll be more aware of what they’re saying and doing in the courtroom.”
The measure would require the training sessions be at least three hours long and be held every year.