Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Harassment Of Teen Rape Victims After They Report

From Metro West Daily:

ASHLAND [MA] — Sexual assault can mark the start of a different attack for teens - a battle with rumors, vilification and online harassment from peers.

One local mother says after her daughter was raped, she struggled with false gossip about the assault. Behind the anonymity of the Internet, others hurled names and accusations.

"It's the assault after the rape that became the most devastating," said the mother, who spoke with the Daily News on the condition she and her daughter aren't identified.

Teens who are sexually assaulted are too often verbally attacked by peers, said Rachel Singer, a counselor and community prevention educator at Voices Against Violence.

"It's definitely more widespread than I'd like to admit," said Singer. "Part of the reason why the majority of victims don't report sexual assaults is because of all that - because of the response of society in general, but also the personal response of their friends, their peers."

I believe most of those who harass teen rape victims justify their actions by their assumption that the allegation is a false one. Once these people (teens and/or adults) cross a line where they would be ashamed of their actions if they realized they were making false accusations against a real crime victim these people will need to stick to their rape denial no matter what the evidence shows.

If the case ends with no charges or no conviction, or if this harassment is so great that a real rape victim recants or stops cooperating, these people can wrongly claim that their assumptions have been proven to be true when they have not.

This hostility would get worse if those who report having been raped had their names published. Those who advocate publishing the names of rape victims often claim that the current rules are there only because rape victims feel ashamed. They also claim that rape victims who don't have their names published face none of the hostility that those accused of rape face.

This article highlights how wrong that claim is. It also highlights that the reason for privacy rules is about far more than shame.

Once a rape victim is labeled as a false accuser that person is more vulnerable to being raped again by someone who assumes that this rape victim has lost all credibility and will be treated as a serial false accuser.

The hostility rape victims face can go beyond slandering the alleged rape victim. It can turn into witness tampering and physical violence from people who claim to be against both "real" rape and false allegations. These people's actions disprove both of their claims.

Singer will be the keynote speaker at a forum about dating problems and sexual assault for parents sponsored by Ashland Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition. This type of forum is important not only for parents of girls it is important for parents of boys who may believe dangerous myths about where the line is between legal and illegal sexual activity.

As I highlighted in my series on genuine consent (pt 1, pt 2, pt 3) too many people believe that in a dating relationship the girl is legally responsible for clearly communicating her lack of consent and boys are not legally responsible for ensuring they have freely given consent, either across the board or conditionally.

This belief puts the burden for an action on the person not taking an action and opens the door for situations where the girl or woman gets raped but her rapist doesn't view what he did as rape.

Thankfully, one of the key issues which will be discussed at the Ashland forum is the lack of understanding about appropriate sexual boundaries. This is a huge contributor to sexual violence and especially to date rape and acquaintance rape.

If everyone who wants to take a sexual action will take personal responsibility for ensuring that the other person is genuinely consenting instead of relying on any sort of societal code for communicating consent then the number of rapes will plummet and the number of cases where a rape victim is accused of making a false accusation will also plummet.

This is more than a good ethical standard which cannot or should not be reflected in rape law. The required clarity of lack of consent can be impossibly high.

Also, often times "no means no" to a woman. A man can easily interpret "no" as "yes." He thinks she is just trying to show that she is not easy. Unfortunately, the trend in most states is that when a woman says no it means that consent to proceed has been withdrawn, even in the throes of great passion.

Yes, that's right. It's unfortunate that in most states when a woman doesn't consent that ignoring her communication means that what happens after that is non-consensual. What is truly unfortunate is that in some jurisdictions that the withdrawal of consent can be ignored. This makes rape conditionally legal in those jurisdictions.

Someone who assumes another person is consenting should never have legal consent unless that other person is freely consenting. The legal responsibility for avoiding misunderstandings related to consent and for non-freely given consent must belong solely to the person taking a particular action. If there is any ambiguity about consent or whether that consent was freely given then that means stop or no.

Stopping might be a bummer, but a rightful accusation of rape -- even when friends will rally behind the person who doesn't stop -- is a much bigger bummer.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 1:04 PM   4 comments links to this post


At January 14, 2009 9:36 PM, Blogger Atare said...

This. A thousand times this. I didn't even report my crime to the police or even "out" my rapist to anyone. Yet, he still said I was "crying rape." For what benefit...? I still don't get it.

He harassed me into not reporting, saying no one would believe me. I saw him approach a bunch of friends and acquaintances of mine, who then gave me the cold shoulder. They burst into my conversation with my best friend about how he was stalking me-he just "couldn't handle it." HIs friends yelled at me to kill myself in the hallway and the one time I DID contact authorities-to try and stop him from coming into the CLASS I was in-I got e-mails telling me something was wrong with me; people calling me and screaming at me because I didn't know what "real rape" was, like they did.

They all took his word over mine. It's weird, because the rapes-traumatic as they were-don't hurt as much as the massive backlash I got for seeking safety and that I was never believed. Not sure if that's normal, but that's how it is for me.

Sorry for the personal babbling, I'm just someone might check this and feel less alone.

At January 14, 2009 10:38 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


No apology is needed. Thank you for sharing your experience. I am so sorry that you were raped and then slandered by those who were so quick to abandon their ethics in order to abet a rapist.

I understand your rapist's actions perfectly. He clearly knew he was guilty and his anxiety over the possibility of a true allegation led him to preemptively accuse you of making a false allegation.

This should have been a red flag to those he ran to that he was falsely "crying no rape," with the motive to turn his peers into co-conspirators against you.

There is no excuse for those who acted as your rapist hoped they would act.

False allegations against rape victims are much more common than false allegations of rape, but many people seem determined to be in denial about this.

This denial makes sense since those who harass or threaten real rape victims will have a tough time sleeping if they acknowledge that they became what they hated: False accusers.

Your feelings about the backlash make perfect sense because that backlash sent a violent message and clearly caused you to not feel safe.

At January 14, 2009 10:57 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


I want to add that your rapist's actions which you describe provide evidence which the police could use against him if they are competent and motivated when it comes to rape cases.

In many non-stranger rape cases which result in charges the rapist has incriminated himself by the story he creates.

If you still have any of the threatening emails, please keep them since they are evidence. Log any hostile action you can, including names, since those who harassed you are potential witnesses and depending on what they said or did, they may have committed one or more crimes against you.

I strongly suggest that you contact a victim's advocate (via RAINN is the easiest way to reach one in your area) even if you don't want to report at this time so that someone can help you keep as many options open as possible.

At April 13, 2009 1:41 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Anonymous, I rejected your comment since it has no relation to the harassment of rape victims except that you don't seem to have any problem with this harassment.

If you are seeking a genuine dialogue about wrongful identification then please look at my posts about misidentification.

Since you arrived here using the search words: "rape victims false accuse" your attack against those whose rapes cannot be denied seems to be based on your desire to call most of those who report rape, "liars."

When you make accusations against those who report rape you need to identify yourself so that you can be held responsible for your words and your actions. Too many of those who claim to be against false accusations and lack of accountability have no trouble making false accusations of their own while doing their best to not be accountable.


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