A rape survivor has waived her right to anonymity to defend a judge who was widely criticised for claiming women were putting themselves at risk of sexual attacks if they were drunk.
Megan Clark, 19, was raped beside a canal in Manchester by a man she met in a Burger King after a night drinking in the city.
The man, Ricardo Rodrigues-Fortes-Gomes, 19, was found guilty of two counts of rape in July 2016, and jailed for six years this March. Clark told the BBC that she was disappointed by the sentence, saying it should have been longer.
After the trial at Manchester crown court, the judge, Lindsey Kushner, was accused of blaming victims after warning that potential attackers “gravitated towards girls who had been drinking”.
After identifying herself as the woman in the case, Clark told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme that she took the judge’s comments in a “positive way”. She added: “She [Kushner] was absolutely right in what she said, but it was taken out of context. She put the blame massively on rapists not victims. She just simply said ‘be careful’ basically, which is smart advice. But she wasn’t at all victim-blaming.”
Explaining her decision to talk about the case, Clark said: “It is a really important subject and people don’t talk about it and are afraid to admit things happened.”
Clark told the BBC that she had initially blamed herself, but has since changed her view. “A few people I told put it down to my behaviour. I thought it was true. Everybody blames themselves. I know that it is not my fault but it is hard not to blame yourself especially when you are in that situation.”
Clark said she would not have reported the rape if it had not been captured on video. “It probably wouldn’t have gone anywhere it was just my word against theirs without the evidence,” she said.
Kushner’s comments, at the end of her final trial before retiring, prompted outrage from campaigners and senior officials.
The Northumbria police and crime commissioner, Dame Vera Baird, a former solicitor general and former Labour MP, said Kushner’s remarks implied that the victim was somehow responsible. She said the judge should have given advice to help women stay safe instead of implying “it’s your fault for having attracted him in the first place”.
Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, responded to another judge who defended Kushner, by saying that it was “always disappointing to hear views expressed that lean in favour of the ‘victim-blaming’ culture that allowed sexual predators to offend with assumed impunity in days gone by”.
Kushner said that she felt compelled to speak out. She told the sentencing hearing: “I beg girls and women to have this in mind. Girls are perfectly entitled to drink themselves into the ground but should be aware people who are potential defendants to rape gravitate towards girls who have been drinking. It shouldn’t be like that but it does happen and we see it time and time again.”