SOSC 2350 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Karla Homolka, Paul Bernardo, Marie HeneinExam
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1. We have studied various forms of assault and homicide committed by women. Prove some examples
and explanations of how experiences of being victims were used to explain why they injured or killed
others. Use concepts of discourse, pathways, grey zones, fear, anger, and mental illness in your answer.
(Underline the words in your answer)
Primo Levi's discourse of the concept "grey zones" developed to be that individuals whom are
within this zone are victims who become perpetrators. They are individuals who decide, having suffered
themselves (being under conditions of extreme oppression), subjugate their victims. This concept can be
used to understand victim-offender, Karla Homolka. Homolka was sentenced to imprisonment, along with
ex-husband Paul Bernardo, for abduction and rape of two teenage girls, and for the drugging and rape of
her younger sister. Within the first six months of their relationship Paul began to physically and sexually
abuse her, and it was not long before where Homolka actively participated and played a significant role in
a number of “deviant‟ sexual activities with Bernardo. Most of the assaults on the young girls were
videotaped, evidently illustrating Homolka’s role being pivotal.
The two narratives used in the Karla Homolka case alternate between pathways of the passive
innocent dupe - a woman in danger - and the morally depraved dangerous woman. Yet her criminal
culpability is called into question when her own victimization, of physical, emotional and sexual abuse at
the hands of her husband - which, on one occasion, resulted in her hospitalization - is taken into account.
Under this line of reasoning, Karla’s fear of her husband - based on her knowledge that he was actively
raping other women and the abuse she herself suffered - is emphasized in order to demonstrate that her
involvement in the crimes was far from voluntary: her participation was simply a means of survival and
with her increasing fear of Bernado, her ability to judge and act according to her own free will was largely
Moreover, it is said that the mental health condition of victims of violence may have existed prior
to the victimization or may be the result of their victimization. It is often seen that a female commits a
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form of assault and or homicide to a person whom she is familiar with. Meaning, there was a previous
relationship with/to the victim where anger, and resentment are illustrated through her crime. The women
aims to justify her crimes, by bringing her past back to light, typically along the lines of being sexually
abused/assaulted/raped and surrounded by alcoholics and violent people as a child. Thus she goes on to
say that it is her past experiences where traumatization and anger has built up and the only way she could
be “free” was to act accordingly to save her own self.
How did Karla explain:
(a) Why she drugged her sister
Karla Homolka testified to drugging her sister due to being under extreme duress. She stated:
“Because I was told by Paul, and I knew from past experience that if I didn‟t do what he told me
to do I would get beaten and have to do it anyway. It wasn‟t a case of saying “no” and just
taking a beating, it was a case of saying “no” and being beaten until I did it” (R. v. P. Bernardo,
1995: 661 cited by Kilty and Frigon, 2007:49).
She went on to state that she had never initiated the crimes, she only followed. Her defense was
mainly based on her being under the influence of her ex-husband, Paul Bernardo.
(b) Why she and Kristin French appeared to be enjoying sex in videos?
As the crimes were videotaped and later found by the police, Karla Homolka explained that she
and Kristen were laughing and smiling because they feared what would happen to them (fearing
Paul Bernardo, and declining his wishes) if they did not appear to be enjoying their sexual
2. Identify and explain some issues regarding women's complaints of sexual assault. Describe
what happened at trial and how police, witnesses, crown prosecutors, defense lawyers, judges,
and media were involved.
The Jian Ghomeshi trial consists of three women whereby the judge denounced them as
deceptive, manipulative and deliberately breaching their responsibility to tell the truth. Dozens of
victims come forth accusing Ghomeshi of violence without consent. The first complaint was by a
woman who claimed he assaulted twice, once in her car, the second in his home. She stated he
violently pulled her hair, punched her, and once it was done he “threw her out like trash”. The
crown presented her story as cut-and-dried but defense, Marie Henein reminded her she was
under oath. The story came to light and the witness tried with great efforts to justify the risen
discrepancies by stating she was thinking of the main events and the rest (sexual activities
consented by both parties) was “stuff” that came after, a memory process that she said most
people go by; the more you sit with a memory, the clearer. It was the police’s job to fully
investigate the women’s stories to validate a case against Ghomeshi, but according to the first
witness, that process did not take long – two incidents, twelve years old, questioned for only 35
minutes. The women said the police did not make them feel as if they were being investigated, it
was more so “tell your story” type of feeling. The second complaint, much like the first
complaint, goes back several years where she was visiting, she went on a first-date to dinner
with Ghomeshi, testifying to crown that it was back at his house that Ghomeshi attacked her.
The witness states during the examination of defense counsel that there was no consent given
because she was never asked in the first place. Police interviewed the second witness, which
lasted for about an hour, and stated they asked her to illustrate what happened. She said that
after the sexual assault happened, she had no intention whatsoever to have a romantic
relationship with Ghomeshi, but upon cross-examination of Marie Henein, pictures were shown
of the two together on separate occasions; one at a party with his arm around her, the second at
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