Great debate on Democracy Now between Jaclyn Friedman of WAM and Naomi Wolf, author. Apparently, Wolf doesn’t have much sympathy for rape that is ambiguous. And, she believes consent can include someone giving in to repetitive pleas or having sex while asleep. Some advocate.
Okay, I grappled with the title on this one. The topic overlaps on so many of my posts about women’s credibility in abuse allegations and men’s “nice guy” portrayal in the media. Here were my options:
1) “Nice guys”…rape
2) He’s “not that kind of guy”
3) Liar until proven honest
Read Jaclyn Friedman’s: How the media should treat sexual assault allegations against Al Gore
The Tribune piece asks the question, “How can you judge the credibility of a sexual assault charge when there are no witnesses and apparently no physical evidence?” It’s a good question, but why not ask, “Why, in cases of sexual violence, is the victim assumed guilty of lying until proven innocent?” We assume that accusers of other crimes are credible enough to report unless there’s clear evidence to the contrary: a repeated history of making false claims, for example. Or evidence that the two people in question weren’t in the same place at the same time. Barring these sorts of clear contravening evidence, media outlets should consider sexual assault accusations credible enough to report.
Why indeed. Other victims of crimes are not presumed to be lying. Research finds it’s bias and NOT that other women have made false allegations and, therefore, have made it harder for honest women to be taken seriously.
But sexual predators aren’t monsters. They’re men (about 98 percent of them are, anyhow). They can be handsome and seem kind. They can be well-liked. They can do you a favor and think nothing of it. They can kiss their wives in public and mean it. They can be brothers, boyfriends, best buddies, talented film directors, beloved athletes, trusted priests and even (prepare to clutch your pearls) lefty political heroes who seem like genuinely nice guys. What they all have in common is the sociopathic rush they get from controlling another person’s body.
What’s more, our fierce attachment to the idea of the obvious monster has the exact opposite of the intended effect: it puts all of us in great danger. Every time we indulge it, we give cover to the actual sexual predators among us: we discourage victims from reporting because we’ve already told them we won’t believe them, and, when charges do get filed, we’ve already encouraged the police, prosecutors, judges and juries to make like we do and find whatever reasons they can to dismiss, diminish and deny justice. All of which means that these guys—these nice-seeming guys in your community—are free to attack again and again. Which, research shows, they do.
If you’ve ever seen Dateline’s To catch a predator or watched America’s Most Wanted, you’ll understand that most of these men who commit abuse and murder are seemingly “nice guys.” They’re men that look like your neighbors, like your boss, hell, to me, they’re men I might consider dating. They’re not nice though, are they? But they come with no signs on their foreheads, no warning signs, no monster masks….
I once read a headline “Silence empowers the abuser” that I will never forget. Silence does empower and embolden an abusive person, whether that person commits rape or domestic violence, two crimes that still flourish due to society’s inability to deal with it.
As a society we are quick to blame the victim – was she drinking? what was she wearing? And quick to deny the abuse – the boys were drinking, their hormones were raging, whaddaya expect? or the “nice guy kills family” reporting template for domestic violence where they interview “shocked” neighbors who thought he was a “nice guy” and say “things like that don’t happen around here.” Yeah, uh-huh. Denial runs deep.
It’s also the reason we have more sympathy for victims attacked or assaulted by strangers than by family members (family members serve shorter sentences for rape/pedophilia and get kinder treatment by the media as well). And, finally, it’s why we have more sympathy for the accused than the abused. Rape or domestic violence stories will bring out the best of the deniers – those that defend (mostly) men and accuse women of being false accusers (liars). They need no evidence, being vocal is enough to brand women as liars – until what century, I wonder? How long are we going to pass down this disfunctional mindset of dealing with abuse? How long? How many more girls, boys, women and men will be raped? How many more girlfriends and wives will be beaten, strangled and killed? How many children will be murdered to get back at an ex? How many can we tolerate?