The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Sexist Judges Punish Abuse Survivor

Feb 26, 2024

Katie Orndoff charged her boyfriend with abuse in 2021 after he punched her in the face twice and made her nose bleed. Many partners are abused in this society, but she had the courage to stand up for herself. But this put her up against a bigger abuser: the court system. First judge James Fisher ordered her not to talk about her boyfriend’s earlier abuses. But she did. The judge suddenly accused her of appearing intoxicated and asked if she had taken drugs. A classic attempt to turn the victim into the accused! In effect, he interrogated her without a warrant and without reading her Miranda rights—all in order to silence an abused woman who fought back.

Detectives in the courtroom said she did not act intoxicated. But Orndoff admitted she had smoked marijuana—several hours earlier, because she was nervous about the trial. No wonder! In Virginia it’s legal to smoke marijuana. But the judge ordered a drug test and sentenced her to 10 days in jail for testifying under the influence, which is not legal. In jail Orndoff was made to take off all her clothes and be completely naked after some official declared she was a suicide risk. Her lawyer got her out on bond after two days and won a case against the judge, which the judge then appealed.

This February the Virginia Court of Appeals—made up of eight women and eight men—confirmed the judge’s sexist act. They ruled that he was right under the law to jail her! Orndoff said: “I will never feel safe reporting abuse again because doing so does not protect me.” She wrote: “Not only did I suffer abuse by my significant other, but I was punished for testifying…. The system and the courts have no real interest in protecting victims and punishing abusers.”