“I’ve been working the feminist beat for years now, and have seen lots and lots of stories about sexual harassment and rape. I have never once seen the victim go without being called a liar. Not once.”
In the recent comment thread on the topic of sexual harassment at conferences, “Holy. Fucking. Shit.”: An Attempt to Discuss the Actual Issue, Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon made a comment that I thought was very important and very pertinent. With her permission, I’m posting it here as a guest post, and am letting it stand on its own. Trigger warning: description of violent rape, and of rape victims not being believed.
I’ve been working the feminist beat for years now, and have seen lots and lots of stories about sexual harassment and rape. I have never once seen the victim go without being called a liar. Not once. And that includes a case where there was a video of the assault where the victim was clearly so intoxicated as to be unable to move—some people thought she was dead—and the rapists assaulted her so badly she peed herself. That girl was called a liar and the usual cries of “more evidence needed” were issued, resulting in at least one and possibly two hung juries before they could get a conviction. Women are considered guilty until proven innocent, and the trick is that there’s no level of proof sufficient to win the argument with the “skeptics”.
Our culture starts from the assumption that women’s natural state is lying. How that obvious untruth got so ingrained is hard to really account for, but that’s true of many stereotypes that, no matter how ludicrous they are when you really look at them, are nonetheless widely believed. It’s also cross-cultural, thus the Muslim religious rule about rape not being believable without four male witnesses.
Of course, the problem is that disbelieving accounts of rape and harassment as your initial stance is basically giving permission to rapists and harassers. Most of them know well enough to wait until they’re alone with the target to get aggressive. They know that when both they and the target walk away, the person whose account is given the benefit of the doubt—even past the point of ludicrousness—is theirs.