Just A Girl had a really thought provoking post up today about how we as feminists approach and deal with victims of rape and sexual assault and also false accusations of the same. My reply got so long I figured I should post it here instead.
This is a really sensitive issue for me. As someone who has had friends raped. And acquaintances tell me stories that definitely were rape but that they didn't report...
And as the wife of a man who, when he was 18, was falsely accused of rape, but convinced to plead "no contest" to "illegal sex with a minor" when it was shown there was not enough evidence to convict him. She was 15. The sister of a friend he went to high school with. They had sex at a party. Somewhere along the lines she believed her parents would find out she was sexually active, and she had been cheating on her boyfriend. He happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I know my husband. He's no fucking rapist. He can barely even get rough in bed when asked. It makes him uncomfortable. I've seen steam coming out of his ears when a co-worker friend of ours was drugged and raped at a party. I've seen it when his niece was molested by her father. And when he was the second person I'd ever been in bed with and was coming out of a long and complicated relationship, any hesitation of mine was met with his immediately stopping what he was doing, reassurance, and absolutely zero pressure to start up again.
He's not capable of it.
I don't think other innocent men deserve to be treated the way he is when he goes to register. I don't think other innocent men deserve to be treated the way he was during the trial. And yet the absolutely disgusting manner in which rape victims are treated makes me just as angry. Maybe more angry. And false rape accusers like his give defense attorneys of guilty men excuses. They cast doubt on real victims. And men like my husband can be permanently branded, while real, violent rapists, even when there are witnesses or videotapes(!!!!) can walk free.
Our system is fucked.
And I ask myself that same question. In the face of all this, and my life experience, what can I do?
I think there is no other example like this one to show us how unbelievably fucking important the concept of innocent until proven guilty really is.
And she's so right. Because I've had that concept thrown in my face in rape discussions. But yes, yes, IT GOES BOTH WAYS. The accuser is innocent until proven guilty too.
Our law enforcement and medical community and legal community and viewers at home need to learn how to suspend judgment. We all need a better understanding of what rape victims experience, and how they are likely to react and behave. Legalities need to be made clear and we need to be taught growing up exactly what rape is, how it can happen in all sorts of contexts and how to prevent it. Not just "don't do it" which is the prevailing wisdom for all topics related to sex right now.
Is it possible to believe them both? The woman who was raped and the man who says he didn't do it? We know the stats. We know the likelihoods (as best we can). Until the facts of each case can be examined thoroughly...can't we believe them both?
And when I say believe them both, I mean be there. Don't respond to the denigration of rape victims with the demonization of men. Hug them. Listen to them. Don't judge them. Believe them.
Do you think we can?