Young lady, that’s inappropriate

How the legal system works against women

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  • Published 20170428
  • ISBN: 9781925498356
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

AFTER GRADUATING FROM law school, I spent a full and disturbing year working as a judge’s associate in the District Court of Queensland. The role required silence and discretion, and each week I sat, mute and powerless, watching things unfurl in front of me – both in and out of court – that made me want to get up and run. Forever the youngest in the room, often the only female, things that were normal to the seasoned lawyer unsettled me. I used to think all the time: Is anyone else seeing this?

Each week, there would be a new trial and a handful of new defendants to sentence, almost every single one of them a man who’d done horrific things to a woman or child. The judge I worked for was a very good man, and described sex crimes as being ‘the bread-and-butter of the District Court’. Defendants would largely deny all charges; jurors asked the same antiquated questions about definitions of consent. As the year progressed, processions of women were reduced to tears during cross-examinations by older men. I wanted to jump up and object, both for their honour and mine. Asked about what they wore, when I too had worn a miniskirt on the weekend. Asked about contraception, when I too was on the pill. Asked about how much they drank, when I too had lost count. Asked why they didn’t just yell out or call for help, when I knew full well how hard it was to fight the panicked ‘freeze’ of being exposed to sudden and unwanted male attention.

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