18 December 2010

Discrediting Rape Survivors: The Same Old Story

Strong warnings for sexual assault triggers, especially those having to do with discrediting sexual assault survivors. Self-care is a radical act. Take care of yourselves.

If you haven't been following the accusations being leveled against Julian Assange (founder of WikiLeaks), here's a very quick breakdown:

  1. Julian Assange has been accused of raping two women in Sweden. You can see more detailed information (with double-plus trigger warning) here.

  2. The website that Assange has founded has also come under serious scrutiny and legal threat from a handful of countries

  3. Assange is being held on an extradition notice in London (NOT on the charges themselves) and was denied release on his own recognizance because he's a flight risk - which is obvious, since he fled Sweden to avoid having to come up on these charges.

  4. Progressive journalists, most notably Michal Moore and Keith Olbermann, spread incorrect information about the charges (including that it is a crime to "have consensual sex without a condom" in Sweden) and dismissed the charges as false and politically-motivated.

  5. Many people, largely consisting of feminists, sexual assault advocates, and activists, demaded an apology from Olbermann and from Michael Moore

Things that have been taken away from this:
  • Keith Olbermann blocked critics from his Twitter ... no! closed it down ... no! is using again, but only to talk to the people who aren't criticizing him.

  • The hashtag #Mooreandme continues to be an active topic on Twitter with many individuals demanding an apology from Michael Moore

  • An unestimatable number of people believe that Olbermann and Moore's statements were statements of fact and have moved ahead as if they were

I have little that's new to add to this, honestly. Certainly, it is assured that these charges are being pursued because of political motivations - most conservative estimates show that less than 6% of rapists will spend any time in jail and nearly all of those that are pursued for legal charges will in some way have to do with political motivations - whether it's the skin color of the rapist (men of color are disproportionately brought up on charges even though 52% of rapists are white) or the category the rape falls in.

So the claims that it is unusual for a man being charged with rape to be white, middle-to-upper class, and powerful? Not exactly fucking news to me.

I was trained as a rape advocate when I was 19 years old. However, I was 12 years old the first time that I advocated for a survivor of sexual assault, when a friend of mine told me about the guy who had raped her on a date two nights before. She was scared to tell anyone, even though she had three classes with him and was sick to her stomach at the idea of seeing him while she was trying to learn, because he was popular. He had power.

All rapists have power. That is, in fact, the motivation of rape - to leverage that power against another person.

I don't know that the charges of the two women in Sweden are true - I wasn't there. What I do know, however, is that the public vilification of these women - whether from some Gomer on Twitter, some asshole on the bus, or Michael Moore in public view - is hurting rape survivors. It is not only damaging to these two women, but to every single survivor who has ever had someone tell them that our story didn't matter, that nobody would believe us, that we didn't matter.

Yes. We. I am a survivor of sexual assault. I have been an advocate, a friend, a shoulder to cry on, a body between a survivor and a doctor who wants to take a rape kit without a medical advocate present.

I have heard more firsthand experiences of sexual assault than anyone should ever hear and spent more time at Take Back the Night, in hospitals, on the phone, on the internet, and simply making tea and saying "I believe you" than I can even recount.

Every single survivor I've ever spoken to has had someone tell them that they don't matter, that they're powerless, and that nobody will believe them. The last thing that we needed was for some of the most visible members of the American Left media to take on rape apologism like it's a new fad.

So, for what it's worth, I want to tell all of you: Your voices matter. Your stories are heard. And no matter how much someone tells you that the person who hurt you was too powerful to touch, know that we're listening.

And to these men on the left who can't find it in themselves to admit that you can like someone's political motivations and still have to take seriously charges of sexual assault: Shame on you.

You owe us an apology.

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