In the comments of a post at The Curvature a commenter wrote about looking into her heart about whether to believe rape allegations made against someone she knew. After soul searching she decided to believe the denial of the person accused. She couldn't be sure she made the right decision since her belief was not based on the accused person's exoneration.
The problem with this methodology is that it isn't reliable. Some past observed behavior on the part of accused rapists may result in doubts about the innocence of the person accused, but many rapists are careful not to reveal any hints that they are capable of and willing to rape.
The other problem is the cumulative effect of this looking into the heart process. When this conclusion is made by all those around all the rapists who only show their violence to their victims that sends a clear message to children and adults about whether their report will be believed if they are raped by someone who seemed trustworthy. This is true even when the disbelief of the alleged rape victim isn't spoken of in hostile terms.
Yet people continue to wonder why most rape victims don't disclose?
If what they've seen from those they trust is rape denial through choosing to believe accused rapists then that is what they will expect from those same people if they disclose. Unfortunately, many rape victims who do disclose are met with denial -- which can be quite angry or even violent -- from the people closest to them.
If my first boyfriend had been accused of rape by someone I didn't know before he raped me, I would have looked into my heart and I would have absolutely known that he had been falsely accused. I would have compared everything I knew about him against everything I knew about rapists and there would have been zero overlap. I would have slandered that person in my ignorance and zeal to protect someone I cared about because I would have been sure that what I said was the truth.
I would have trusted my boyfriend with my life. This was part of why I didn't disclose. I wouldn't have believed he could rape anyone if he hadn't raped me. Why would anyone look into their heart and not believe him?
There are plenty of people who dedicate time and energy to upholding an imaginary baseline where those who report rape seem far less trustworthy than those who are accused of rape. This includes quoting Eugene Kanin's study without acknowledging how the investigative methodology of using the polygraph to get a recantation can induce false recantations. Their ability to detect bad methodology disappears when that bad methodology makes those who report rape seem like liars.
There are plenty of people who support this imaginary baseline without thinking about what they are doing because rape denial is so normal in most societies.
When people hear, "false rape accusation," almost all of them think about alleged victims who lie. They don't think about rapists who lie and falsely accuse someone they raped. They don't think about investigators who make false accusations against real rape victims. They don't think about people who hear that a report of rape didn't result in a conviction and claim that the report was false. Yet the second, third and fourth type of false accusation are by far more common than the first.
This process of looking into your heart is one that many rape victims go through before trusting someone who turns out to be a rapist. Yet they get blamed when this methodology fails while friends, family and community members who side with rapists after soul searching -- with more troubling data available to them -- are largely admired for their loyalty as long as they don't get too crude in their condemnations of the rape victim they choose not to believe.
If believing that someone is not capable of rape is admirable -- even after an allegation has been made -- then the practice of condemning or scolding rape victims for trusting the wrong person is ludicrous. We must instead direct our condemnation toward rapists who use trust as a tool of rape. And we should condemn those who baselessly condemn alleged rape victims who have not been proven guilty of filing a false police report.
The legal concept of innocent until proven guilty cannot ethically exclude rape victims. Those who withhold judgment against those accused in the name of innocent until proven guilty must do the same for those who report sex crimes.
This is why evidence is so important and why testimony of the alleged victims should not be tossed out in the name of, "he said, she said," even when there is no DNA evidence or when there are no undeniable physical injuries which can't be dismissed by people looking for any excuse to view the alleged victim as the only possible perpetrator.
A form of denial which is just as dangerous as full denial is the argument that so-called non-violent rapes shouldn't result in criminal prosecutions. The reason given is often that no real harm was done in these rapes. The person acknowledged to be guilty is viewed as an innocent (of harming anyone) whose life will ruined by a rightful conviction.
We could say the same about armed robberies where nobody was shot or stabbed and the attackers fled empty handed. Yet we don't. We don't minimize robberies where employees are terrorized by unarmed robbers when the employees don't need medical care.
This type of denial when applied to rape contributes to rapes committed by otherwise decent people. If other people call certain rapes not "real" rape then those rapists can commit those not "real" rapes with a feeling of having done absolutely nothing wrong.
Creating an atmosphere where people can easily rationalize or deny rape -- and where they can easily get others to join them in this denial -- contributes to the commission of rape by people who consider themselves to be decent human beings.
The positive side of this is that we can contribute to creating the opposite atmosphere which can in turn contribute to a reduction in the number of rapes. Those who oppose this positive change want the public to believe that this means abandoning our legal system of innocent until proven guilty when it does no such thing.
Labels: Violence Against Women