Believe her, or him, or zir. Regardless of gender, believe the victim.
There are those who have pushed back about the main vow of the OWF, and that’s to believe the victim. Period. Again and again, I hear the same things perpetuating the myth of frequent false accusations.
“What if she’s* lying?”
“False accusations do happen.”
“People will just cry rape willy nilly.”
“I wasn’t there, so I don’t know what happened.”
All these piss me off, but especially the last one. Of course you weren’t there. Two people were there. Most predators ensure there are no other witnesses. That’s how they get to keep doing this over and over again. Rape culture and incorrect stereotypes about women, especially, fuel the rest. This is where you must believe. You’re either going to believe the victim, the person who has been traumatized, or you are going to believe the accused, the one scoffing and claiming “she’s* crazy,” again, misogynistic stereotyping there.
When you vow to “Believe the victim. Period,” I’m not saying you’re going to take every single word that comes out of her* mouth as the end-all and be-all objective truth gospel. What I’m saying is this: that you believe that something extremely traumatic happened to this person, and it was caused, at least in part, by this person they claim. Give the victim the benefit of the doubt, make the accused explain themselves. Not the other way around.
Believe her*. Period.
Let me reiterate. 600 people are raped every. single. day. in the USA alone. That’s one every. two. minutes.
What we’re doing isn’t working. The rate of false accusations again and again have proven to be at the same rate or LOWER than other falsely reported crimes. The most recent study showing under 1%.
We are bleeding to death.
Take this analogy:
A woman has a cut on her leg. It’s not clear how she got the cut, but it is clear a major artery is severed and she will bleed to death if a tourniquet isn’t immediately applied. You can either:
A. Tourniquet the leg to stop the bleeding and take the small chance that she’ll lose the leg, giving the paramedics a chance to get there and do what they do best, or
B. Stand around arguing the best way to close the wound, whether or not she did this to herself or someone did it to her, or if she’s really cut or just really good with stage makeup and special effects, all while she bleeds to death.
This is the state of our culture right now when it comes to rape and other forms of sexual violence.
600. people. every. single. day.
I really don’t know how to make that more clear.
Even more disgusting, only 3% of rapists will ever see even a single day in jail.
Standing around talking about whose at fault or how best to figure out for yourself whether or not they’re lying, because you weren’t there and your opinion and judgment is obviously much more important than a traumatized human being in need of safety and compassion (/sarcasm), is causing our culture to metaphorically bleed to death. This mentality is perpetuating rape. It gives the rapists social license to continue, and they do continue all while you are trying to figure out what really happened.
What really happened is irrelevant. You know this: a person is scared and traumatized because of something that was done to them. Period. Believe her*.
We’re bleeding to death. There might be the odd (and I mean rare) instance of a false accusation that will “ruin the poor guy’s life,” but in the mean time, 600 people a day are being irreversibly traumatized. All their lives are truly ruined, as I know first hand what it takes to survive rape and the long, horrific road to healing.
We must stop the bleeding, and that will only happen if we believe the victim, no matter what, when they comes forward. Right now, the single most thing that keeps victims silent is the fear that they won’t be believed. Virtually every rape victim fears they will not be believed. Rapists tell their victims that they won’t be believed. Don’t make them right.
Misogynistic stereotypes about women being overemotional and exaggerating and lying and being vindictive and all these things that stem back to the Victorian Era, if not before, are already against women. Similar cultural beliefs about transgender folks are already against them. This is where we, as a community, must turn it around. Believe that this person endured a traumatic experience. That’s all we need to know.
No, we weren’t there. We won’t even know what *actually* happened in that room. What’s relevant is that this human being before you, vulnerable and scared, has been deeply traumatized.
You have a choice:
A. You can either further traumatize the person by not believing them, by asking victim-blaming questions like “why where you there?” “that wasn’t really rape” “that’s a very serious accusation!”, or
B. You can start the healing by saying, “I’m so sorry that happened to you. I believe you. What would you like to do next? I’m here for as much or as little as you’d like to share. You’re in control. I believe you.”
We must stop the bleeding first. Turn all the questions to the accused and let them explain themselves. If they say things like “That bitch is crazy!” or “She’s lying!” or “She’s mentally ill” or “She’s just hurt” or “She’s trying to get revenge on me…” HUGE HUGE HUGE red flags!!! The accused is using these cultural stereotypes to avoid the topic. They are skirting by on charm and reputation and turning the questionable eye on the victim. If the accused says these things, they’re likely guilty or at the very least hiding something. The accused must speak to the events. Period.
When you believe the accused and not the victim, you are reinforcing their belief that they can behave badly, whether that is covert abuse and exploitation or sexual assault and rape. You are renewing their social license to continue.
Once sexual violence is under control in our society, and by under control I mean less than 20 rapes a day with 90% reported, THEN we can have a discussion about how best to close the wound. Right now, we’re hemorrhaging.
Stop the bleed first.
*or him or zir — regardless of gender, believe the traumatized party. Please read the disclaimer page about binary gender terms. Please substitute pronouns to fit your situation/experience, and let’s all please stay on topic about this horrific epidemic.