Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Rape Culture: Women Who Cry Wolf

Well it seems that the story of the UVA fraternity rapists isn't actually true. I had wondered how I could identify any attackers in a pitch black room and how well they would manage to carry out an assault while kneeling on broken glass. I also wouldn't consider anyone who was more concerned about their opportunities to party than in getting me to hospital a friend. In any case, rolling around struggling on broken glass for three hours would have left me torn to ribbons. I wouldn't have been able to sleep it off and try to forget about it.

Think about it; I'd have had to bandage or cover my injuries to prevent my clothes from sticking to them and tearing the wounds back open every time I took them off. Try being severely sunburned till your skin looks like bubble wrap (protip: don't lie out with your bare back exposed, even on a cloudy day); I know how hard it is to cope with weeping sores on my back when it's not the result of a violent assault; the pain would be many times worse if it was, as I'd have bruising and maybe cracked ribs to contend with as well. She claimed to have been assaulted with a bottle till she passed out; surely to goodness she'd have needed treatment for internal lacerations after that.

So why did nobody say anything till the Rolling Stone got called out for not doing journalism properly? I've done a bit of digging and this is what I found.

1. Confirmation bias

If you have preconceived ideas about certain groups of people wallowing in a culture of impunity, alcoholic excess, and disrespect for women, which I freely admit I do, you'll easily believe that they are monsters capable of anything. I haven't forgotten Steubenville, after all. Comments like this don't help:

On a tangent, you can’t have both sexual liberation and intolerance to rape. If you support sexual liberation, you are tolerant to rape. If you are against rape, then you should be for traditional values. What’s difference between rough sex and rape? An angry chick’s say-so. With murder, there is a body. With rape, there are some chick’s (probably fake) tears. The difference is from hear [sic] to the moon. - commenter "Jimbo Jones" on "Is the Rolling Stone Story True?" - Shots in the Dark.

This guy actually seems to think that sex outside of marriage is rape, and that rape is rough sex. Sexual liberation = rape, as far as he's concerned. He's not alone. CNN lamented the promising careers of the rapists being destroyed by their sentencing and showed no concern at all for the victim. The New Statesman called it out and pointed out that we need to stop accepting, condoning, and celebrating the abuse of women and girls. That the boys claim they didn't realise it was wrong is the problem.

So yeah, I was all riled up about Steubenville and jock culture, and accepted without question (well, not much) that what we were told by Jackie is true, perhaps with some journalistic embellishment.

2. Political culture

As I've mentioned before, only the liberal left are doing anything concrete about rape culture while the right frantically denies there's even a war on women in which, I kid you not, the eventual aim is to put all females under house arrest until they are passed to a marriage partner. I'm not even joking. This, they claim, is traditional and therefore not to be questioned.

Well on the religious side they've been making fools of themselves over rape in the media so they went quiet over this, perhaps hoping to weather the storm. Meanwhile liberals had a high horse to ride and off they galloped as fast as they could.

3. Truthiness

As the Rolling Stone tried to claw back some dignity and put a fig leaf over its reputation, it went back to Jackie to ask her to explain herself. Despite the evidence clearing the alleged perpetrators, she stands by her story. Some apologists and friends of Jackie contend that something happened to her and this story is a symptom. This is of course a classic example of the need for due process; however heinous the crime, the accused must have the right to face his accuser and he must be permitted to defend himself. Innocent till proven guilty, people! It's like Johnny Heward all over again.

Remember him? Allegedly clean-livin' Mormon good old boy who turned down some cheating army wife on Facebook and ratted on her. It went viral. Well people wanted to believe it and many said it was true in a way even if the actual facts weren't correct because it reflected their own experiences of being cheated on while risking life and limb, kind of thing.

What I'm saying is, rape is a common enough experience for women on US campuses that people said, "That happened to me," after reading the story, and a lot of women felt able to come forward to report their own stories because someone else had done so first.


In a world where due process is increasingly seen as an impediment to justice and justice means vengeance, we can expect to see a lot more witch hunts like the one conducted against the UVA fraternities in the wake of this scandal and a lot more blowback if the accuser turns out to be lying.

Yes, it's great that universities are being forced to sit up and deal more firmly with rape and sexual abuse but we must take a measured, common-sense, evidence-first approach to allegations of rape. Like it or not, without evidence, it's her word against his and it's not fair to be biased for or against either side. When a woman makes false accusations she does as much to promote rape culture as Dapper Laughs and that American loser who got banned from Britain and Australia and we need to accept that fact if we're going to learn anything from this.

I call on every reader to be willing to put emotional considerations aside when such a case arises and remember that we all ought to be considered innocent till proven guilty as false allegations can wreck people's lives. Please be sure to call me out if you see me doing otherwise.

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