It really sank in when I heard one of my close friends say, ‘Why? No one would believe me. It happened years ago.’
Hearing that come out of the mouth of a friend I’ve known for years punched me in the gut.
I’m referring to sexual assault and rape. I know that the media has been plastered with the topic recently, mainly because of allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation process. But the media also widely covered the convicted rapist Brock Turner of Stanford in 2015. If you roll the clock backward, there is case after case after case that just keep getting thrown on the pile. Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein for example. I think we all know that the list extends far past well-known names. The list hits closer to home.
Some people are saying that the world is just becoming a more dangerous, evil place. But let’s face it: The world has always been like this; light just wasn’t shed on it until now.
Critics are harshly ridiculing victims for coming out about their assaults years after it happened. But let’s face it: Being exposed to that kind of attention after suffering a traumatic experience takes a lot of courage and has the potential to destroy their life.
These critics push the narrative that false accusations are common for a plethora of motivations: political motivations, revenge motivations. You name it and someone has come up with it.
But let’s face it: False accusations make up only 2 to 10 percent of reported sexual assaults, according to an overview of false reporting done by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC). You can find this resource at https://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/Publications_NSVRC_Overview_False-Reporting.pdf
I’m upset. I’m disappointed. I’m angry. I’m enraged that this topic is growing more potent day by day and spreading like wildfire. And the fact that the perpetrators are getting away with it makes my blood boil. The fact that people have been defending them and still are fills my heart with a discontent that I don’t think I’ve ever felt in my entire life.
Throwing another log onto the fire that is my anger is the President of the United States. On Oct. 2 at a rally in Mississippi, Donald Trump blatantly mocked Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the first woman to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual assault. In the video that’s now gone viral, that nasty man “reenacts” Ford’s testimony by saying, “I had one beer,” and then continues on about how she answered questions like “how’d you get home” and “how many years ago was it” with “I don’t know.” (See for yourself…https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2018/10/03/donald-trump-mocks-christine-blasey-ford-testimony-mississippi-rally-sot-vpx.cnn)
And the mocking that Trump did wasn’t even based on any fact. According to factcheck.org, Dr. Ford had specific answers to all the questions that Trump said she didn’t. “Specifically, Trump falsely claimed that, during her Sept. 27 testimony, Ford did not know what year the alleged attack occurred (she said the summer of 1982), whether the alleged attack happened upstairs or downstairs (she said in a bedroom upstairs) and the neighborhood where it occurred (she said in the Bethesda area).” (Here’s the link: https://www.factcheck.org/2018/10/trump-repeatedly-wrong-on-fords-testimony/)
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve see the phrase, “why didn’t they come forward about it when it happened?” all over social media. Your answer why is described in the above paragraph. You can have your opinion about whether or not you believe a victim, but mocking them is putrid and heartless.
For now, I’m going to move past my anger and hit you with some statistics that I think might surprise some people. I’m going to begin with addressing false accusations.
As I mentioned previously, 2 to 10 percent of REPORTED sexual assault cases result in a big “false” stamped on the file. Now, I’m directly addressing those who’ll take those numbers and say “but 10 percent is a really high number” and continue to ramble on about how a person is “innocent until proven guilty.” I’m not dismissing that. But what I am dismissing is the belief that every single case of false accusation is black and white. Just because a case is categorized as false doesn’t 100 percent mean that what the victim said happened was false. There are many factors that play into how a case plays out.
To begin with, according to the NSVRC overview, “many published reports do not clearly define false allegation, and often include data that falls outside of most accepted definitions.” The FBI and International Association of Chiefs of Police issued guidelines that “exclude certain factors, by themselves, from constituting a false report”. These excluded factors include insufficient evidence to proceed to prosecution, DELAYED REPORTING, victims deciding not to cooperate with investigators and inconsistencies in a victim’s statement.
These guidelines are not mandatory for all police departments and, as a result, they are not always followed. There is room for gaps in law enforcement training that may lead a report to be stamped as false. These gaps include the factors listed above being misconstrued as factors of a false allegation.
Think about the factors that contribute to a report being classified as false. Also, consider how many credible cases of sexual assault and rape aren’t included in calculating that 2-10 percent because they ARE NOT reported.
Recently, I’ve been seeing a tweet go around raving about how there’s a war on men happening right now because apparently women are just going around willy-nilly accusing men of raping and sexually assaulting them for funsies. Well, Laura Loomer, sorry to tell you, but buying your son “a note pad, a body camera, and a recording device” isn’t a sufficient replacement for teaching your son about respect and CONSENT. Hell, Laura, teaching your CHILDREN about respect and consent because every person is capable of evil and wrong-doing, regardless of sex. (Here’s a link to the original tweet: https://twitter.com/LauraLoomer/status/1045395978604417024 )
If consent was just respected, this whole topic wouldn’t need to be addressed because it wouldn’t be a problem. Clearly that’s not the case; if it was, there wouldn’t be nearly as many reports and assaults that go unreported.
According to the NSVRC overview, an estimated 63 percent of assaults are not reported to the police. You might ask “why wouldn’t they want to say anything about someone wronging them?” When a victim makes the courageous decision to say something, they face unimaginable ridicule and disdain. And that’s been a trend for years and years. Victims are noticing the trends and are deciding that it’s better to stay silent rather than face such ridicule. In all honesty, I don’t blame them.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Dr. Blasey Ford received death threats and nasty, awful comments from people she’s never even met, all because she decided to speak up against someone who did her wrong. She turned her entire life upside down and for what? Kavanaugh still got confirmed to the Supreme Court. This case just proved to every victim that paid attention that even if you get up the courage to say something, it’s a fruitless act because you’ll suffer more than you already have with no justice being served.
This is why victims don’t report. This is why victims just cope with it and push it down to the deepest recesses of their minds.
This is exactly why the perpetrators keep getting away with ruining women’s lives.
Believe victims. Believe them. Take them seriously.
Recently, I’ve been seeing a trend float around Twitter and Facebook: #BelieveWomen. I can’t even begin to describe all of the nasty responses I’ve seen to this trend. The prime example I can think of is Loomer saying that there’s “a war on men” and how we shouldn’t believe women. I think the thing that surprises me the most is that this is coming FROM A WOMAN. I just don’t understand it. The only explanation I can think of for her having this prerogative is ignorance. Ignorance of being in the shoes of victims, ignorance of how monsterous perpetrators can be, ignorance of perspective.
To all of the people who are taking the #BelieveWomen trend literally, I would like to clarify something. #BelieveWomen isn’t to say that we should immediately prosecute the accused without another word. What #BelieveWomen encapsulates is the duty to take a claim seriously and believe the victim enough to care about making a report and having a trial. That’s what this trend is communicating. It’s not an attack on due process.
The biggest take-away I want to leave my readers with is this: Think about all of the statistics I laid out and explained.
Don’t continue to believe that there’s a “war on men.” Understand that false accusations make up a small portion of the reported sexual assaults and rapes, and that the factors used to classify a report as false are not universally defined. Keep in mind that the majority of assaults go unreported. Keep in mind many unreported because of things like the vile words that people like Trump are spitting at victims. Stress consent to every person you interact with, especially if those people are children.
And above all else, BELIEVE VICTIMS. Take them seriously. Listen to their story. Get them help. Encourage them to report if they’re strong enough to fight.
And if you, the reader, wants to fight, fight like hell.
Listed below are some resources for anyone needing them:
-Free and confidential sexual assault hotline: 1-800-656-4673
-A list of many other resources can be found at this link: http://victimsofcrime.org/help-for-crime-victims/national-hotlines-and-helpful-links