Thursday, 13 June 2013

Rape Victim Falsely Accused of Making False Accusations

Finally went back on Twitter and found an article by s.e. smith on a rape victim who was intimidated into recanting her claims and then was found out to have been raped after all. This woman was accused of fabricating her rape because hr story was "inconsistent". I've seen the exact opposite in literature on false accusations of sexual assault, where multiple victims allegedly collaborated in creating a consistent story. Similarly, in a few murder cases I've read about, the witnesses' or suspects' stories changed so much that no single story could really be believed without further evidence, yet the judge simply chose the most interesting story to base their verdicct on.

Of course, in rape and sexual assault cases, there are usually no witnesses other than the victim, and technical evidence may be lacking in some cases as well, especially if the victim didn't report hte crime right away. However, even though contrary to what s.e. says, it is not the police's job to be on the victim's side, it is their job to take every allegation of crime seriously.

In the Netherlands, there are protocols on how police should handle allegations of sexual assault. These require the police to warn the alleged victim of the fact that making false claims is a crime. In certain cases, the victim needs to be assessed by a team of specialists. This is so in cases of allejged ritual abuse, recovered memories of sexual abuse, or sexual abuse prior to age three (if the victim is the accuser). These teams are often biased towards not believing in these instances of sexual abuse. At least, W.A. Wagenaar, a great author and legal psychologist whose literature I'm basing this off, is.

I know that it is hard to collect evidence of sexual assault, and that suspects have rights too. However, this is exactly why nothing in the alleged victim's story alone can be seen as clear cut evidence of false claims. When no evidence is available other than the victim's testimony, this sadly means no suspect can be tried. When other evidence is available but being ignored, or the police fails to look for it at all, this means a perpatrator gets away with something horrible they could've been brought to justice for. This happened in the case of D.M. and a shocking number of others. It is about time police do their job correctly at least.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

How (Not) to Minimize a Friend's Experience of Sexual Assault

A few days ago, a guest blogger on Feministe posted a list of things not to say to a friend who tells you they've been sexually assaulted. It's a non-exhaustive list, of course. I want to focus on a few statements that fall under one category: minimizing.

"Are you sure that happened?" Well, maybe I'm not. Denial is a common phenomenon in sexual assault victims. Even if we do remember all aspects of the assault, which some people don't, we may still doubt whehter it "counts" or was "bad enough". Don't reinforce this by asking me whether I'm sure it happened. If we are sure of ourselves, don't tell us that we should be in denial either. And yes, I have been told this exact thing.

"You could be fabricating this whole thing." While this is extremely rude when you mean the sexual assault itself, it is also very rude and insensitive when you refer to the post-traumatic symptoms your friend may be suffering from. I have been told on many occasions that I could be fabricating my symptoms. What would be cool about fabricating depressin, anxiety, flashbacks, dissocaiton or other symptoms? No, we don't fake them for attention. It's no fun having these symptoms and we are ourselves affected the most by ur own symptoms. Don't you even dare say we're using our symptoms to bother you.

"It could've been worse." I think this all the time about the sexual violation I experienced. Of course it could've been worse. I know that people who've been raped on many occasions sometimes come out really well, while I suffer severe trauma-based symptoms after "only" a few incidients of sexual violation. I don't need my friends to reinforce the negative self-talk this produces. The effects are there, no matter how "minor" my assault may've been.

"But you look fine." So what? I may be hiding my feelings or even suppressing the whole experience. Besides, I generally don't want to bother friends with my feelings, cause I've been rejected a few too many times over them.

"Are you okay now?" This is the more polite version of "Get over it!" You may not be minimizing the assault itself, but you are certainly minimizing my feelings about it. You may ask me if i"m physically safe, but don't ask if I'm okay, cause quite likely, I'm not.

There are many more comments that are insensitve that the guest blogger did not list. For example, rationalizing away post-traumatic symptoms is also rude. "You are too sensitive." A well-meaning friend will not say this, but under this category also fall comments that explain away the trauma. Even my therapist has told me that I'm more sensitive to trauma than most people due to my disabilities. While this may be factually true, it's not going to validate me. I don't care whether I would not have had the trauma-based symptoms I have if I weren't disabled. The thing is I have these symptoms. Deal with it. If you're a therapist, help me overcome these symptoms. If you're a friend, just listening without bias is as much as you can do.