The Week That Was

This is the week that was that never should have been:

A judge in Canada decided Jian Ghomeshi was not guilty on all counts — and also that it’s high time society got over this wacky stereotype of rape victims as generally being NOT lying liars who lie.

Republican legislators in North Carolina decided that society’s central problem was too little shaming of people for their genitals and too much legal protecting of vulnerable minority populations.

A New York court decided that while cops can technically be held accountable for killing random and unarmed Black people, that only applies in cases where 1) the cop is not white and 2) the Black person still gets no justice.

A County Recorder in Arizona decided that voters themselves were at fault for the unconscionably long lines at polling stations on Tuesday — though she accepted “full responsibility” for telling them so.

And so, with all that in mind, allow me to invite you to greet the weekend by singing along with me and Katie Goodman:

[Continue beyond the jump for a brief PSA…]

To any survivors of sexual assault that my words can reach:

I see you.
I hear you.
I BELIEVE YOU.
You are not in this alone.

#beenrapedneverreported #askmewhythatis #idareyou #idoubledogdareyou

#ibelievesurvivors

nov 1980
Alice the Peaceful Warrior has got your back.

24 thoughts on “The Week That Was

        1. So sorry you’re still sick! Political and henanigans aside, that just sucks.

          On the “less depressing side of this very post,” though, I managed to have a lengthy and, I think, respectful exchange with another blogger on the issue of why “I believe survivors” is an essential element for opposing rape culture. (If you’re interested — and your sicky, fevered brain can take it! — scroll down to the first comment by Belladonna Took.)

          I’ll be thinking get-well-soon thoughts for you!!!

          Like

  1. Your posts and comments are so well thought out and so well informed Alice. To add on to the comments, I think the problem is that usually women who have been raped weren’t raped by strangers. When your house or car gets broken into, you might go to the police and say “my house got broken into. Please help me find whoever did this.” And everyone believes you because who the fuck lies about their house getting broken into? Unfortunately, when a person gets raped, usually the conversation is more like “I was at this party, and my classmate/coworker, Jim, raped me.” But people know Jim. People like Jim. And no one wants to believe that they like someone who is a rapist. But really, we should all be thinking, who the fuck lies about getting raped? And as stated above, the answer is not very many people. The difference is that the victim usually knows exactly who the perpetrator is and once there is a charming face instead of an anonymous asshole, we are less likely to believe the crime actually happened.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a big part of it, I agree. And the myth of the stranger rapist matches much more closely to what people listen for as a sign of “truth” (this is what studies of law enforcement responses show, for instance), whereas people hear, “Jim raped me” and think “he said, she said.”

      Another problem we can’t overlook? Acquaintance rape looks an awful freaking lot like, oh what’s that thing called? Right! DATING. Or rom-coms. Or pop songs about love. Or so many other things in our culture that eroticize male agency and female passivity. Some of the issue lies with how good predators are at blending in and mimicking non-predatory behavior, at least from the vantage point of people who are not their target. The rest of the issue is how much of dominant culture is still grounded in rape culture, male supremacy, and misogyny.

      Thanks for your comment — I always appreciate your contributions to the conversation!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t know how to add this onto the nested conversation up there between Alica and Belladonna, so apologies for chiming in on the wrong geographical section of the comment thread. Just to add some mathiness to what Alice outlined, above, about using the “50/50 standard” to claim that these women are as likely to be lying as not. False rape claims happen 2-8% of the time. For the sake of rigor, I’m going to calculate from the higher end of that scale, and for the sake of making the math easy, I’m going to round up and calculate based on 1-in-10 odds that any sexual assault allegation might be false. (And remember: this 1-in-10 actually keys to a HIGHER percentage of false reporting than actually exists.)

    So with the four accusers in the legal case against Ghomeshi, the cumulative (inflated) chance that everyone is lying are 1-in-10,000. And that’s not counting the other women who have stepped forward but weren’t part of the prosecution’s case.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Sherri — my math brain was most def not on fleek tonight! 😉

      (And re. the commenting: there’s this terribly terribly faint “REPLY” link under the star at the end of each comment. Which I almost didn’t see when I first shifted to this template! But you’re right, I think comments can only go about 3 levels deep.)

      Like

  3. Hey Belladonna–
    Nobody here is talking about assuming that anyone accused of rape is guilty. Nobody. What we’re talking about is the assumption that anyone who has been raped is lying. See the difference?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Elizabeth! *waves*
      I just wrote one hella long response to Belladonna’s comment/question. Would be interested in your thoughts on that, if/when you’ve got it in you to read more on this subject.
      ❤ alice

      Like

  4. Never having been assaulted, I can’t claim to know how it feels to be a victim. It must be … so far beyond horrible, I don’t have the words. And, like you, I’m uncomfortable with the way the judge phrased his opinions.

    BUT – and I think it’s a big but – “innocent until proved guilty” is a fundamental tenet of civilized society’s justice system. It troubles me deeply when women demand a presumption of guilt for accused rapists – it seems to me every bit as dangerous as a presumption that their accusers are lying. Surely most women wouldn’t lie about such a thing … but some would. Think of the Salem witch trials. Think of the McCarthy era. Think about what we read about Stalin’s USSR, when people could be imprisoned, tortured, sent to Siberia simply because someone accused them.

    Most people wouldn’t do such things, but some would, and for that reason – and because it’s almost impossible to prove that you didn’t do something (unless you happen to have witnesses who will confirm that you were actively doing something different) – we have to presume innocence until guilt has been proved.

    I understand that reporting a rape is a hideous process. Maybe women advocating for rape victims need to focus on that end of things – on the need to make it safe to report the rape – rather than on assuming that every accused male is de facto guilty.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Belladonna,

      Let me be absolutely clear: I do not — nor do any serious activists that I know of — demand a presumption of guilt for all accused rapists. Statistics indicate that approximately 2-8% of all rape accusations are false, which is roughly the same as for other major crimes.

      I need to be absolutely clear about a few other things too, though [and — fair warning — I may come across as heated, because on this subject I am. Please understand that my anger is not directed at you]:

      1) There are recognizable patterns to false accusations, NONE of which were in evidence in this trial or in any statements made by accusers or other witnesses.

      2) The guidelines most police investigators use to evaluate an accuser’s truthfulness are woefully inadequate — and generally completely backwards — for taking statements from victims of sexual assault and trauma. The shifting of certain details that the trial judge pointed to as evidence of these women being “untruthful,” or even intentionally deceitful, actually followed quite closely recognizable patterns that are seen when people recount traumatic experiences, rape in particular. The judge’s statement also suggests to me that neither the investigating police nor the prosecuting attorney did their jobs adequately either, in working with these victims and in the trial.

      3) I am not “uncomfortable” with how the judge phrased his opinions; I am godsdamned APPALLED. He repeated many of the standard tropes of rape culture beliefs, all tinged with that prevalent just-so-ism that women are inherently untrustworthy.

      4) “Innocent until proven guilty” is a legal standard in court that safeguards the accused. I am 110% in support of legal rights for people who are accused of crimes — INCLUDING those found guilty. But — and this is a BIG FREAKIN’ BUT — “found not guilty in a court of law” is not the same as “proof that nothing happened and no harm was committed.” Also? I am not a court. I do not have any power over the accused in this case. What I do have is both the ability and the right to form my own opinions — opinions which are, on this topic, highly informed by years of research and formal study on these issues. I do not “have to presume innocence” if the evidence I have access to does not support it.

      5) The judge weighed the testimony of each woman separately, essentially parsing out his ruling as if it was three separate cases of “he said, she said” / “he said, she said” / “he said, she said” — each with 50-50 probability of truth on either side. [See above re. stats on false accusations. They get even less than 2-8% when looked at cumulatively.] In addition, the four women whose situations the prosecutor filed charges on (three sexual assault charges; one for choking a woman in order to get sex) are NOT the only women who have revealed that Ghomeshi assaulted them; there are over 20 women telling very similar stories, going back years. So we’re really talking about “he said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, etc…”

      It beggars the imagination to claim that all of these women have come together in some conspiracy to lie about being violently assaulted in order to — what? get some kicks by posing as rape victims? bring down a radio personality, out of some perverse desire to see him arbitrarily jailed?

      Which brings me to my final point:

      6) OF COURSE ADVOCATES FOR ASSAULT VICTIMS ARE FOCUSED ON CHANGING THE SYSTEM. Have been for years and years and years. Personally, I do not feel that prison sentences are *in any way* an appropriate response or corrective for sexual assault; the legal system we have just happens to be the only game in town. I am a staunch supporter of restorative justice practices — as well as prison abolition. What I want is NOT one more person thrown in a cage for 18 months [the longest term Ghomeshi would have faced for all three assault charges; choking carries more serious penalties]. What the hell would that solve??

      What I want is people safe.

      What I want is no more victims.

      What I want is for a violent predator — with a long, well-documented history of non-consensually beating, choking, and terrorizing his romantic partners before (again, NON-CONSENSUALLY) penetrating them — to STOP DOING THAT SHIT.

      ***
      If you’re still with me, Belladonna (and I really hope you are; I really hope you asked the questions you did because you genuinely wanted to hear my answers), then I’m going to direct you to another post I wrote some time back, which has links galore on all of these issues, backing up every point I’ve discussed above. Including plenty of backstory on Ghomeshi specifically. Fair warning: it is also pretty heated, and pretty angry, and slightly vulgar. Because I do not know any other way to approach this subject. And because yes, this topic makes me pretty damn angry.

      But being angry doesn’t make me wrong.

      Best,
      alice

      https://coffeeandablankpage.com/2014/11/19/im-only-gonna-say-this-once-so-listen-closely/

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks, Alice … Yes, still completely with you. I’ll read your other post, because I am interested. I don’t generally comment on posts like this because (a) I have never been a victim (either attacked or seriously damaged by a false accusation), and (b) although I think this is a hugely important issue it’s not something to which I’ve devoted much of my personal time or energy. (One has to pick one’s battles.) So … not retracting my expression of concern about kneejerk “of course he’s guilty because no one would lie about it”, but continuing to read, to learn, maybe – if the occasion arises – one day to help someone in this situation. I do wish victims wouldn’t delay reporting an assault … I KNOW it’s a hard, hard thing to do, and that needs to change … but dammit, if his first victims had spoken up maybe there would have been fewer of them. Not victim-blaming, okay? Just frustrated by the way our systems fail us, over and over again.

        Anyway, thanks for responding.

        Like

        1. Here’s the thing about delayed reporting: to focus on that is to miss the fact that many victims don’t immediately process that what has just happened to them is a rape. Those that do? Are far more likely to report (to someone, if not always police) — IF they see reporting as a viable means of coping or getting help, in their own specific circumstances. We can neither expect NOR ASK anything more of people who have just undergone a tremendous physical and emotional trauma. Not to mention the extreme stigma and social shame attendant on saying “I was raped.”

          To ask why Ghomeshi’s first victims didn’t speak up sooner — and to link that to the issue of just how many victims there were yet to come — is to ask why they didn’t stop him. Is to see their silence as a causal factor in those later rapes, rather than to place all responsibilities for his actions on him alone.

          I understand that you don’t want to blame the victims. Do you understand how asking why victims don’t speak out immediately sounds a lot like blaming them for their rapist’s future actions?

          As to how many rape victims do not immediately process their assaults *as* assaults (and for many, it can take YEARS): I have not written in any extensive way about this issue. Maybe someday I will. But I am not entirely sure that I have the words yet for everything that prevented me from recognizing that I had been raped for over 25 years. Godsawful years, in many respects — trying to function like a normal person, all the while my trauma-fractured brain melted around me, with memory gaps and PTSD triggerings and an increasing inability to even feel the surface of my skin.

          Ask me anytime during those 25 years about my first sexual partner, and I’d have shrugged — probably said something about how lots of people have disappointing first times. Ask me anytime in the last 2 years? And I will tell you that I was raped repeatedly by someone I thought was a friend. I will tell you it happened 12 times or more, but I have blocked out most of the details.

          Ask me this week — and I will tell you that I just learned last Friday that the boy did not act alone. He was part of a small group of friends who raped girls competitively. He was part of a CONSPIRACY. And I was only one of the girls they preyed on.

          Would it have saved someone else if I had said something at the time? I don’t ask the question. Because 1) dear gods I have nightmares and guilt enough, and 2) it has taken everything I have just to, finally, save myself.

          I also don’t ask the question because I TRIED TO SPEAK UP. How to speak a thing you don’t have words for, when no one is listening? When people you count on are actively invested in having you stay silent?

          The primary function of this blog, you may or may not realize, began as a means of rebuilding my memories from the time the rapes broke them. Its continuing function is as a space where I practice how to talk about these issues. How to engage in questions like the ones you have raised without merely descending into howls and shrieks of pain and outrage. [Thank you for giving me such good practice today! Srsly!] Because, yes — systems failed me. Individuals failed me. My family, my shrinks, my lovers failed me.

          I will not now fail myself.

          [This is the story where my memory project began, if you are at all curious: https://coffeeandablankpage.com/2014/10/11/the-window-bangs/ Thanks again for listening.]

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Thank you for sparing me the howls and shrieks… 🙂 Sometimes one knows one isn’t “getting it”, but you can’t quite figure out what you’re missing because your personal experience doesn’t give you complete context. I appreciate the fact that you’re willing to share what happened to you, and what that means to you, because reading about it helps me grow.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Oh, I’ve learned to back away from the computer if I feel a howl coming on! And I’m completely sincere about appreciating your willingness to participate in this conversation — writing about these issues helps me grow too.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. In this case, I think having a judge (and possibly prosecutor too) who believed rape culture myths was even more handy. Wasn’t a trial by jury — judge was the sole individual responsible for the verdict.

      Liked by 1 person

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