So today a famous actor was found not guilty for a string of charges against a young girl, including rape. I don’t want to speculate as to his guilt, I do not want to argue for and against him. It’s not for me to say. It has however, prompted me to put down a few of my thoughts about some of the ways society views victims of sexual crimes.
I haven’t really followed the case, I found the coverage, in particular the details, quite upsetting. However, I did read up on the verdict and I, stupidly perhaps, read some of the comments left. While it came as no surprise, they really bothered me. There were several things, but the one I want to talk about is that it seems to be that a lot of people believe “not guilty” equals innocent.
Very few rape/ sexual assault cases make it to court, the conviction rate for those that do, is low. This is not because the accuser is necessarily lying, I’d go as far as to say that is rare. The rate is so low because it’s hard to convict “sexual” crimes, it’s usually a case of one word against another and often there is very little evidence. How do you find someone guilty based on two versions of a story, with no evidence, or at least very little evidence? If there is any reasonable doubt, the jurors have to return a “not guilty” verdict. This does not mean that the accused is definitely innocent. Do people really believe that not guilty = innocent? No, no NO. Perhaps in the case today not guilty does equal innocent, in fact I really hope so, because the idea of another guilty man walking free sickens me. In general though, not guilty does not necessarily mean innocent, in rape cases particularly. To bring these cases to court and find the accused guilty beyond all reasonable doubt is very difficult. I don’t know how we can change that, I don’t know what the answer is, I don’t even know that there is one. If it cannot be proven, if it cannot be shown without reasonable doubt, then how can there be more convictions?
Yet, I think it’s important we all realise that most victims reporting rape/ sexual assault/ abuse are not lying, they aren’t “devious madams” they are not “attention seekers” (some of the things I’ve read this evening). Who would do that? Who would go through all of that if it wasn’t true? Sure, it happens, some people are that devious, some are that broken, but not the majority, not in any way what so ever. I know I am not alone in thinking that way, but sadly, I do not think many stand with me either, not enough for sure.
I see and hear the denial and victim blaming in people around me, nice people, decent people, intelligent people. It saddens me, it upsets me as it affects me so personally too. Do you know what it’s like not to be believed? To be subjected to violent degrading acts, to be violated in that way, to go through horrendous pain and utter humiliation? And then to have the resulting horrible shame and guilt magnified by people questioning the validity of your story. Do you know how that feels?
Society seems to not believe victims of sexual crimes as a default. If we had been burgled you’d believe us, if we had been mugged, you wouldn’t question us. So why question us when we say we have been raped, why the automatic disbelief? Why do we have to justify our pain, why do we have to push through the denial of society to be heard, to then be shouted down and called liars?
Alright I’m done, it’s off my chest. Its late and I didn’t want to go to bed heavy hearted. I needed that out the way because I’ve had a positive evening, talked out some issues, had a big realisation (I think) during said talk and been reminded of all the progress so far. I want to hold on to all that as I go to sleep tonight, not this stuff.