When do we stop believing women?

Nathan Chan

Nathan Chan

Drue Cappawana, Opinion Editor

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Consider the following situations:

 

In 1985, a 15-year-old girl was sexually assaulted at a college party by a 17-year-old boy. The assailant covered her mouth to muffle her screams after one of his friends forced her into a bedroom. She is quoted as saying, “indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two and having fun at my expense.” Many witnesses claim this boy was visibly intoxicated, despite the legal drinking age being 18 at the time of the assault.

On Friday, September 28, 2018, a 5-year-old girl was raped by a 15-year-old boy. The police say they were summoned to a hospital emergency room following the assault, where it was claimed by the victim that she knew the assailant, and after an investigation, it was clear that the assailant was the 15-year-old boy who was subsequently arrested the following Tuesday.

In one of these situations, the victim’s story is being rejected by many who hear it, while the other victim is believed by mostly everyone. In one situation, the assailant is given empathy, while the other is vilified by the community.

 

It’s upsetting that as a society we already can conclude who is telling the truth about the situation and who is fabricating their story based on a simple paragraph.

The questions I have are as follows:

At what point does the validity of a victim’s story rely on what she was wearing, where she was that night, where her parents were at the time of the assault, and whether or not she or her abuser was sober? While at the same time the assault is written off as horseplay or the abuser is excused with the age-old line of “boys will be boys.” When do boys stop being boys and start being held accountable for their actions? When do we stop believing women?

Why is it that despite the statistics suggesting that on average as little as 2% of sexual assault allegations are found to be false, and the fact that according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) one in six American women will be a victim of an attempted rape during her lifetime, we still choose to believe the assailant’s story instead?

Why do we choose to question the experiences of victims of assault old and young, when they are 4 times as likely to develop symptoms of drug abuse and experience post-traumatic stress disorder as adults, and 3 times as likely to experience major depression as adults when they experience sexual assault?

Why do we instantly assume men are victims of false sexual assault allegations, when in fact they are more likely to experience sexual assault themselves than to be a victim of a false allegation?

Why are mothers more afraid that their sons will be falsely accused of sexual assault, which is statistically unlikely to happen than they are of their daughters being sexually assaulted?

What does it say about our society when we are reluctant to encourage victims of sexual assault out of fear for ruining the assailant’s life when the roles are reversed? The assailant ruined the victim’s life by assaulting her, not the victim for reporting it.

I leave with this:

We’re already at the point as a country where we’ve minimized the sexual assault of young women. Where is the same level of outrage for a 15-year-old victim that we have for a 5-year-old? We call to kill the assailant of the five-year-old victim, yet we blame the 15-year-old victim for not doing everything possible to avoid that situation. And when the latter reports her assault, we don’t believe her out of fear of tarnishing the assailant’s reputation. We run the risk of entering into a sexual assault epidemic, where girls and women are afraid to report instances of sexual assault out of fear of being ridiculed and having their reputation dragged through the mud. We ought to believe victims regardless of the age at which they either experience or report the assault, regardless of the time it takes them to come forward. We ought to start believing women, for our future daughters depend on us, especially men, to stand up for them and believe their stories, so they don’t have to fear being sexually assaulted during their lifetime.

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When do we stop believing women?