Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Problem With Looking Into Our Hearts To Determine Guilt

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.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:18 AM   6 comments links to this post


At February 03, 2009 11:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The nightmares were recurrent for several years, hundreds of them. Only one of an added "pleasure" of Rape by any Real Hero's Greatest He-Man's Hero on the planet...apparently.

At February 04, 2009 12:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm only one of the many, many "non Raped" rape victims who suffers trauma and scars not visibly apparent. I had burial nightmares this past year, after more than 20 years since my rape & blocked in, gated captivity after being lied to, to get me isolated and terrorized with death and burial of a predatory SOB’s re-enacting the rape myth of Persephones & Demeter. Thank you Marcella for always Caring and Batting this "No Rape There" "lying Slut" Shit out of the predators ball park. Over 20 years of persecution later, including horrible slut campaigning and retaliations that are too numerous and maligning to even mention...I'll remain anonymous though I want you to know how much I appreciate your un-veering dedication to supporting rape victims rights and ending predator's privileged Arrogant Support in our society.

At February 04, 2009 1:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having as severe trauma as I've endured, it is so maddening and horribly sadly disheartening to read the arrogance of rape apologist & see 1st hand a society who believe that rape is not a crime or even hurtful to those who suffer such horrible trauma from rape that nightmares can and really do occur decades later along with all the other severe life lasting trauma as well as the Rapist Supporting Predator's allianced MRA affiliation disrespectful, unkind, uncaring retaliations and retraumatizing vindictive "nutty-Slut" campaigns, persecutions and outright slanderous lies.

At February 04, 2009 7:50 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Anonymous, thank you for the kind words about what I'm doing on this blog. My heart breaks for what you've endured.

At February 04, 2009 11:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you. The worst of it is is that this is common and many rape victims experience helplessness and fear and deep trauma as well as prejudices and maligning without hardly any appropriately given justice, support, fairness or decency. But their MRA support system and our country's legal profession are one in the same and we live in a society that pardons rapists who like themselves, could be likely either guilty too, or afraid they might be if some too "pretty" or too "slutty" or too "liberal" or too "nice" or too bold, or too accomplished, or too smart, or too, too, too too whatevers come within their ball park, pissing ground.

At February 04, 2009 12:58 PM, Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

Thank you Marcella for continuing to challenge common beliefs such as the ones you raised in your article. We must not forget most rapists are clever, cunning, intelligent individuals. They are commonly perceived as being 'respectable, kind and considerate individuals' but this is a ploy because most rapists do not have horns on their heads or display symptons of madness. Instead women and girl rape survivors have their character, clothing, sexual and medical history minutely examined for any sign of supposed deviance, nymphomania etc.

Above all most rape survivors do not disclose or report they have been raped by a male because they know very few individuals will believe them. Most individuals adhere to the myth we live in a just society and whatever happens to someone occurs because they supposedly deserved it. Irrespective of the amount of safety awareness women undertake this can never guarantee the woman or girl will not be raped by a known male.

Most males are not rapists but reality is many are and society continues to condone and justify their crimes against women and girls.


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