In this world of Political Correctness, is it ever ok to have a non-PC opinion? To voice that opinion? Or is that something that you keep hidden because of the perceived wrongness of it? Specifically, with the recent bombardment of sexual assault accusations, I’ve noticed a tone of disbelief surrounding the allegations. Many comments read as – not victim shaming- but victim disbelief. For example – Kevin Spacey’s accuser waited nearly 30 years to come forward – How much of his statements have to be taken with a grain of salt? Is it ever ok to not 100% believe the victim? To have serious questions about their story?
If someone’s first reaction to a story about sexual assault is disbelief, I feel that the more important question is “why are you struggling to believe this person?” I think asking these kinds of questions of oneself is important and in the end, much more difficult than questioning a person that we don’t even know.
I’m not saying that every single person who has ever said they were sexually assaulted was telling the truth. I would say that by a huge margin most are. I would also say that letting a handful of bad seeds impact the perception of the prevalence of sexual assault – and why victims wait so long to come out – kinda sucks.
I get having a questioning mind and wanting to know the truth. But we’re not the authority on their story. We don’t know anything about their experience. And offering ourselves into the conversation as some kind of faux-testimonial to that experience really, just… again, kinda sucks.
If we start building this scale of believability we trap ourselves in little boxes of who is an acceptable victim. They have to report to these specific authorities, in this specific time. They have to look a certain way. Be of a certain socio-economic status. They must be beautiful and interesting. People must look at them and think the story they are telling is believable. It’s fucked up to judge a story on these characteristics.
And, of course, the issue of men being sexually assaulted is another thing entirely that we have barely tapped into. It is difficult to have this conversation alongside the issue of men-assualting-women because when we’re discussing power dynamics and gender equity, this is often where the conversation begins. Both conversations are important to have and they intersect at multiple places.
I can completely understand why a person who had been assaulted by a man, especially a man of significant social status, would not immediately come forward. Would you want to become famous for calling out a powerful man? To detail your assault publicly, risk coming out in the open with that story, and have no one believe you? Have it derail your life, your safety, your career? How difficult it is to face that head on? How it could impact your family? It’s easy to make assumptions and judgments when you haven’t been there. But that situation, true or not, isn’t a game to pick at. There are people who get paid to seriously ask these questions. They get paid to make their best (often terrible) determination of what happened. I’m not that person. Most of us probably aren’t.
In the end, I think it’s always better to step back and listen. Not only is it more constructive, but it’s also a more effective way to express compassion in a world that is seriously and deeply lacking it.
And, in the process, do what you can to support the people who are helping end sexual assault & sexual violence. A quick google will lead you to all kinds of organizations near wherever you are.