TRIGGER WARNING This article or section, or pages it links to, contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.
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I believe that a lot of the people who are defending abusers don’t actually realize that’s what they are doing. I believe that they are good people who constantly see the best in others. When they hear that a man they respect and admire is accused of hurting another person, they want to extend the most gracious explanation possible toward that man. They want to assume that there was a misunderstanding, that maybe the situation wasn’t how it seemed, maybe there’s another explanation.
Here’s the problem with that- those people are assuming the best in the abuser and the worst in the abused. They scream, “innocent until proven guilty!”, but the innocence only extends to the accused. The one who spoke up about their abuse is assumed to be guilty of “misunderstanding” or straight up lying. Why doesn’t grace and the assumption of truth apply to the alleged victim? This kind of mentality perpetuates the cycle of violence and places blame on the abused.
When I was online yesterday, I read several versions of this:
Person A: “Matt Lauer was fired after multiple allegations including giving a coworker a sex toy, exposing himself to another, and other acts of ‘inappropriate behavior’ for years”
Person B: “Yeah but I have seen how women act these days. Wearing those low cut tops, flirting…I mean, what do they expect?”
When we learn something about someone that doesn’t fit into the image we have created of them, into our version of who they are, it can be easy to assume that the new information is a lie. For example, if someone tells me that my daughter hit a child at school, my immediate reaction would probably be, “no way, she would never do that, the other person must be wrong” or maybe even, “the other person deserved it”. I don’t want to believe that she did that, I don’t want to believe that she hurt another person, but my desire to believe in an alternate version of truth doesn’t change what actually happened.
When I hear that someone I respect hurt another person, it can be easy to say, “nope, not true, no possible way, that doesn’t fit with what I know about that person”.
FBI statistics show that false rape and related sex charges are around 2%. Honestly, I understand that it’s incredibly hard to “prove” how many people “cry rape” or “regret sex after the fact and claim assault”. I have no idea how many people do that and my point isn’t to address that today. Of course it’s important to look at the source of the information. That being said, I am questioning how often we assume the accused is innocent and the accuser is lying.
The following types of statements blame the victim and perpetuate the cycle of violence:
“Women invite this kind of behavior with how they dress”
“I’ve seen how women flirt….”
“Women are more manipulative than men”
“If it really happened, they would’ve/should’ve told someone right away”
“Was she drinking?”
For arguments sake, let’s say that a woman was at a party, drinking alcohol, and wearing a bikini. (You know, for example…) Are you really saying that she deserves to get shown a penis without her consent? Are you arguing that she deserves to have a hand stuck inside her bikini without her consent? Does she deserve to be blamed for her silence? Really?
Maybe you don’t mean to be cruel when you imply that a woman brought it upon herself, but I need to you know that those comments need to stop. Not just because they send survivors like me into a spiral of tears, panic attacks, ptsd nightmares and shame; but because they are wrong.
After reading the most recent round of victim blaming, I signed offline, hugged my baby and read her Curious George. She asked me why my face was all wet.
If she was older, I would tell her:
“Because, baby girl, I’m so overwhelmed. Sweet daughter, I love you so very much, and I’m scared. I’m feeling hurt and I wonder, if I couldn’t protect myself, how can I protect you? How in the world am I supposed to keep you safe? “
I can’t protect her from everything. It’s not my job to keep her from harm, but I can teach her to be brave and strong. I can speak out every single day against abuse.
When she’s older, I will teach her that rape and assault aren’t about what a person wears. Abuse isn’t about sex at all. Assault is about power. It is the deeply held belief that women are prey and men are predators. It is based on the lie that “no” means keep trying. It relies on rules that teach girls to be nice and boys to be conquerors.
Times are changing though. “We’ve raised a generation of girls to have a voice, to expect egalitarian treatment in the home, in the classroom, in the workplace. Now it’s time to demand that “intimate justice” in their personal lives as well.” (Peggy Orenstein)
Predators and people who defend abusers, your time is ending. Your power is falling through your fingers like grains of sand in a sieve.
Jen Hatmaker wrote this a few days ago:
“I want to say a word about the reckoning happening with sexual abusers. A brave beginning with #metoo has turned into a landslide of truth-tellers, exposure, accountability, and justice.
I say: LET IT REIGN. Let it reign everywhere. Let’s clean house. Each political party, every church, every school, every work place, every home. I hope abusers and those who covered up their evil are shaking in their boots. It’s coming.
You will not be covered by your political affiliation, your clergy robes, your classroom, your charm, your fear tactics, your powerful position, your fame, your popularity. Let this filthy, evil system that protects abusers fall to shreds. This reckoning means that silenced victims are coming. And the rest of us are coming with them. Let justice roll on like a mighty river indeed…
…providing a safety net around abusers is just as evil. Putting responsibility on victims is evil. Suggesting to our Christian brothers and sisters that staying silent and forgiving their abusers within the church is the epitome of hell’s intent. Voting for molesters because we prefer them to stay in power is evil. Shaming men and women who bravely tell the truth is evil.
We’ll have no part of it. We wash our hands of any shred of loyalty to abusers over the truth, and we pray for this reckoning to reach every corner, every dark sinister place, every secret backroom until we look around and discover we are changing our culture of power differentials that protects and promotes evil.
We are listening. We are here. We stand with you, courageous women and men. Let the reckoning continue with ferocity until every last brick is torn down.”
We are watching as the walls that support systematic victim blaming are crumbling. We raised our daughters to demand respect and equality and we are reaping what we’ve sown.
Even though there are many voices hell-bent on silencing women, reducing them to their sexuality or their anatomy, there are enough others communicating a different, better way. Those other voices say, “girls can be anything, girls are strong, girls are leaders, girls are worth standing up for”. Women are enough and women have had enough.
To those women and men who continue to blame victims for their own abuse, I have to assume that you genuinely have no idea how hurtful and wrong you are. I have to assume that you are a good person and you didn’t know better. Now you know better, so I expect you to do better.
I want to be clear, men are not the problem, or the enemy, or dogs or pigs. Toxic masculinity that runs rampant within our society destroys our men and our women and it’s reign is ending. We are witnessing history right now. You get to choose which side to be on.