Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Yet another take on false allegations

It’s interesting that Aspazia posted what she did this week on false allegations of rape, for I was recently considering writing a follow up piece to my own post a few months back on surviving rape.

I enjoyed your post Aspazia, for it has really made me think about my own experiences with both my own abuse, and the stories that I have heard from other women, although my response to your piece is undoubtedly going to end up being more personal as opposed to political.

Perhaps my view on this topic is biased because I have had such a difficult time in the years since my own assault with coming to terms with the abuse that occurred, although I previously posted the concept of “getting over it” is such a relative thing. I agree that women’s responses to rape are highly personal. I am saddened to say that I have known a handful of women who have confided in me about their abuse over the years. Some women become angry at their rapist or at the male population at large, some vow never to have sex again, some become overtly active sexually, and some are thrown into a spiral of chronic depression. My question is: whose to say that the women who cry on the stand, the women who expose their fears regarding going out at night, the women who state that they lost her virginity to a rapist are any more traumatized by the act than the women who appear stoic and devoid of emotion when confronted with questions on the stand? While our judicial system would like to paint the afformentioned women as the “poster” examples of the victimization, and inner trauma that rape evokes for women, the fact of the matter is that every woman is traumatized by rape although perhaps not in the textbook PTSD sort of way. Reactions to rape are so varied and indeed individualistic, however the catalyst is still the same.

But, recognizing, or at least considering that every woman can be traumatized by her abuse does open the system up to favor one party over the other as you pointed out in your post. I’ll also concede that it makes it easier for a female to “play the part” of a victim so to speak by offering false allegations against a male whom will no doubt be found guilty through the woman’s testimony alone. I am sickened whenever I hear stories of such false testimonies, of women who act in an effort to justify their own beliefs or behaviors by condemning an innocent man to the label that a “sex offender” has to offer. I am further sickened by the act, because I invite these women to “walk a mile” in the shoes of a woman who has truly experienced what they are claiming to. If they could possibly fathom the utter anguish, the shame, the emotional baggage that is thrown at survivors of sexual abuse, then they might understand why throwing the word rape around casually is so offensive to those who have been there.

However with that being said, for each of these women who find that the system works to their advantage, I offer that there are more than a handful who find the current system already too difficult to bear. You mentioned that a hearing takes place 10 days following a report, I know that in my own situation I couldn’t even consider subjecting myself to the questions that soon, and I don’t think that I could even fathom doing that now, some 6 years after my own abuse.

I don’t know the specifics of the system at your college, and don’t know the specifics of the line of questioning, or of those who are permitted to be present. And although I agree that the college probably favors a speedy hearing in an effort to expel the man who is accused and avoid a lawsuit. I also feel that the college, and the students for that matter, holds the “it doesn’t happen here” mentality with regards to sexual assault and abuse. A hearing, which offers a solution, albeit an unjust one, seems like a form of damage control, a nice way for the college to put a messy situation into a box, and ship it out before the contents have the opportunity to taint the school’s reputation.

The points you raise in your post are valid Aspazia: I agree that the system (especially in a college setting) is set up to automatically favor the female accuser over the male accused, especially considering that most cases are as you pointed out are “he said she said.” I also agree with your point that young sex in general is awkward, especially on college campuses and in fraternity scenes. However, it seems like the situation is a double edged sword. You create a system that subjects women to defend their past sexual histories and you make it sound like a woman who has previously engaged in sexual behaviors cannot be raped. You create a system that provides time for a lengthy investigation and extensive questioning, you run the risk of having fewer rapes reported. However, within the current system, as you stated in your post we are “sacrificing innocent people.” So what are we left to consider as options for change?