October 30, 2018

Would You Wait Three Decades?

Hands reaching out toward womanWhether you wait three hours or three decades, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Politics aside, the media and others should be incredibly ashamed of their behavior.

The reckless victim-blaming appalled me.

In no case have I ever seen one’s unwillingness to come forward affect one’s credibility. Certainly, the longer one waits, the colder a case becomes – and cold cases are hard to win. But we are not talking about the likelihood of a judicial verdict.

We’re talking about a survivor’s truth.

And we failed.

I’m depressed, disappointed, angry… everything I’ve posted for the last four years has been about believing a survivor.

Let’s play a quick game of true or false where I’ll give you $100 every time you’re correct. One more thing: Statistics show that the correct answer is true 92% to 98% of the time.

With that knowledge, you would pick true every single time. The odds are in your favor.

Yet, our culture and socialization has us bet against the odds when the topic is sexual assault.

How can our first response to a disclosure be, “Nope, she’s lying. Especially if it’s 30 years ago”? Or, “Nope, she’s lying, she’s still hung over and regrets her decision from last night”?

It’s one thing to have a conversation about whether raping others affects one’s legal judgment. It’s quite another to call the allegations a hoax, or to immediately refute the allegations as false simply because the events occurred years ago.

Survivors refrain from coming forward for a myriad of reasons. How dare we question why they wait?

But since we asked, here are a few answers:

1. Nearly half of female survivors who experience rape do not acknowledge that the incident was an assault, either because they erroneously allocate some personal responsibility to the incident or have not been taught what is a healthy, loving relationship. (Meta-Analysis of the Prevalence of Unacknowledged Rape)

2. Teens trivialize their experiences, thinking that their experience is the same as everyone else’s. “No one else says this was wrong, so I’m either the odd one or this is normal.” (“You just don’t report that kind of stuff”: investigating teens’ ambivalence toward peer-perpetrated, unwanted sexual incidents)

3. Criminals in general, and especially rapists, are not held accountable. “Why suffer through the annihilation if it’s not going to matter?” (One surprising thing in the data is that police are very unlikely to arrest people for all kinds of crime — not just rape, but assault and battery as well.)

Come on people, enough is enough. To quote Hannah Gadsby, “Hindsight is a gift, will you stop wasting my time!”

We know better and we had better get it right next time.

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