Content warning: This story mentions reporting about an alleged sexual assault.
A female Duke student and her attorney accused a Durham judge of "classic victim blaming" after she denied the student’s request for a no-contact order during an April 19 hearing, according to The News and Observer.
The student was seeking protection from a male student for alleged sexual contact without consent and stalking. She sought the no-contact order after she had two encounters with the student in his dorm room in October. She testified that the male student repeatedly bit her breasts and penetrated her with his fingers, according to the N&O.
According to a recording of the hearing obtained by the N&O, Chief District Court Judge Patricia Evans said, “As I sit here, I’m reminded of the reason for marriage and commitment. Now those are the old fashioned principles, but there is a rationale behind them because when we do things, because we have the opportunity or you have free choice, you can choose what you’re going to do, but you cannot choose the consequences of those actions.”
Evans subsequently ruled that the plaintiff had failed to prove a no-contact order was justified.
“It felt very much like [the judge] was blaming me,” the plaintiff told the N&O.
The plaintiff said she attempted to acquire a no-contact order after the spring semester began, after she ran into the male student and he stared her down, circled around her and walked towards her twice.
She also reported her interactions and filed a complaint with Duke administrative officials and the Duke University Police Department. The University offered her a consent no-contact order, which advised both individuals not to interact if they are in the same space, according to court statements.
Roughly two weeks after the University-issued consent no-contact order, the plaintiff reported running into the defendant in a dining hall. He sat down at a table nearby and walked by her slowly. She reported having panic attacks after both encounters.
The male student testified that he received consent and stopped when she expressed discomfort. He denied stalking or intimidation.
“This was classic victim blaming,” attorney Kerry Sutton, who represented the student, told the N&O. Sutton described the judge's comments as "appalling," "unprofessional," and "intensely unkind."
Evans said a no-contact order would harm the future of the male student.
“We have a young lady here in obvious distress. We have a young man whose life could be changed forever as a result of my decision. So I weigh them both carefully,” Evans said in the hearing.
The plaintiff is considering appealing the judge’s decision or filing a complaint with the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission, which reviews allegations of judicial misconduct, Sutton told the N&O.
When asked about Sutton’s accusations, Evans told the N&O that she could not comment on a matter that is still pending.
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Kathryn Thomas is a Trinity junior and news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Katie Tan is a Trinity junior and digital strategy director of The Chronicle's 119th volume. She was previously managing editor for Volume 118.