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#WhyIDidntReport: Why is Society so Quick to Disbelieve Women? (EDITORIAL)
Photo Credit: Juliana Ferrie/Achona Online/Piktochart
October 3, 2018
In light of the sexual assault allegations made against Supreme Court Justice Nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the hashtag “#WhyIDidntReport” erupted across social media platforms, such as Twitter. After President Donald Trump insinuated that the allegations of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh’s accuser, were false due to her decision not to report the assault immediately after it happened, Twitter users fought back with first-hand experiences depicting the fear and circumstances that kept them from reporting their own instances of sexual assault.
Stephanie Oehler (‘21) said, “I think that it is true that a lot of times in cases of sexual assault the blame is placed on the woman. For example, I was watching the news about the Kavanaugh case, and they were talking about how Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was going to these parties after the assault occurred, which they brought up in order to reverse the situation and steer away from the allegations against him [Kavanaugh]. They were trying to discredit her story because of these other things, and I feel like this happens a lot. Women have always been mistreated, and I think that it takes a lot of courage for a woman to come forward. I think that it took a lot of courage for her [Ford] to come forward that she probably had to bottle up for a long time. She probably only ever told a few people about it because women aren’t really believed, so they don’t want to come forward. Then once she comes forward, all these people tell her that her story isn’t valid. It sends a bad message to other people who have suffered from sexual assault.”
I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018
For example, the tweets of various victims of sexual assault, who are both men and women, illuminate the societal fallacies surrounding rape and sexual harassment. Victims believe that their peers will not only disbelieve them, but will also justify the actions of the person who committed the crime.
Twitter’s latest movement brings awareness to a serious question: why are women typically disbelieved in our society, especially when their truth is related to sexual assault? When women bring forward the trauma and hardship the actions of others caused them, they face an onslaught of questions rather than the justice and support they deserve.
Because I felt ashamed of what happened and didn’t want to publicly ruin someone’s life, even though they privately ruined mine #WhyIDidntReport
— Cara Delevingne (@Caradelevingne) September 27, 2018
Instead of holding the perpetrator accountable, society is quick to resort to victim-blaming through three common questions: “What were you wearing? Were you intoxicated? Did you ask for it?”
Molly Leepack (‘20) said, “I think that it makes sense that a lot of women do not come forward because there have been so many situations in which men or judges do not believe them, and men who have raped women have gotten off completely. I do not think that it is fair for society to decide that women must come forward immediately with their instances of sexual assault because I think that it takes a while to do so, especially when you are in college and dealing with other things. A lot of women feel ashamed for being raped. They think that because they were drunk, it was their fault, but that’s not the case.”
These ideas define how society, especially men, view women. Although sexual assault occurs without the consent of the victim, society encourages women to believe that they are somehow responsible for their own rape. In addition, when a woman brings forward allegations against the young man who raped her, the justice system informs her that she should feel guilty for ruining his life. Thus, due to the system’s failure to obtain justice for women as a result of sexism, society diminishes the rights and value of women.
Mckenzie Diaz (‘19) said, “It makes me extremely angry when women are blamed for their rape because it just plays into societal pressures. People just want to blame women instead of taking into account the actions of the man. Society wants to tear down women, which contributes to the toxic masculinity present in society. They always talk about how the guy didn’t mean to do it, and how the victim is going to ruin his life. They do not take into account the pain of women. Society teaches women not to dress a certain way or act a certain way, but they never teach men to respect women and their lives or how to treat others.”
I shared my #WhyIDidntReport story on Facebook and a dude messaged me to tell me I needed to stop trying to ruin mens lives so that's how today is going
— ℂ𝕒𝕣AAAAAAAAA!! 𝕄𝕔𝔾𝕖𝕖 💀 Working (@ohcararara) September 27, 2018
Even though society needs to learn to take sexual assault more seriously, false allegations do have the potential to severely affect the lives of innocent men. Although it is very rare, in some cases, women do report fictitious instances of rape. As a result, men view recent movements to acquire justice for women as a threat due to the possibility that they might be accused of a rape they did not commit.
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It isn't that people "don't believe victims of sexual assault or abuse" Because that isn't true. If I know and can see real evidence, real proof; if you can show me that it happened, I believe you. But we are innocent until proven guilty. Of any crime. Because it is our protection. Because people DO lie. Because people DO manipulate things for their gain. Because people can be motivated by guilt or regret, or they may want to make a statement and don't know a better way. Because no one should be able to just say something and it be seen as fact, for anything. Because your emotional response isn't proof. Because your past experience does not determine this one. Because you don't get to make an example of someone who did nothing wrong, simply because you didn't do what you should have to begin with. Because the presumption of guilt can devastate entire lives. Because two wrongs don't make a right. So telling me "well it happened to her and the justice system failed her" doesn't mean it should fail someone else. Because the actual problem needs to be addressed and handled right, not covered with the bandaid of some new, potentially innocent bandaid. You don't get to look at the claim being made and decide, without any real evidence, that someone is guilty beyond reasonable doubt because you are biased by gender or your own past. You have to ask the hard questions. You have to look at the full story. You have to have something real to show. You do have responsibility of your own to take care of yourself. Go to the cops, answer the hard questions, do the hard tests, and follow the system. Don't wait 20 years to decide you want to get back at someone. Take the steps put in order to make the community a safer place for yourself and everyone else. There are channels for protection. I get that it is hard. So is finding out you could have prevented the rape after you. So is seeing the person after you do what you couldn't and win. I know it is scary to think you may not have enough evidence or that you won't be believed. So is having to watch your back and your friends back for the rest of your life because one day he might return worse than before.
Therefore, as a society, we must find an in-between in terms of how we approach sexual assault in the courtroom, as well as on a daily basis. It must become our mission to not only support victims of sexual assault, but also to look at each instance of rape according to what happened rather than through the degrading questions that define victim-blaming. Men and women must learn to respect one another and to rise above the stereotypes that define each gender.
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We must uplift women’s voices! When something is wrong we stand up for what is right and we fight for equality and justice. We continue to pave the way for #womxns rights and we will not rest until all women feel safe to speak their truth and those that do wrong are held accountable #women #womensrights #metoo #whyididntreport #equalrights #equalpay #accountability #fair #latinas #women #womenintech #diversity #latinx