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“I have never once seen the victim go without being called a liar”: Guest Post by Amanda Marcotte

“I’ve been working the feminist beat for years now, and have seen lots and lots of stories about sexual harassment and rape. I have never once seen the victim go without being called a liar. Not once.”

In the recent comment thread on the topic of sexual harassment at conferences, “Holy. Fucking. Shit.”: An Attempt to Discuss the Actual Issue, Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon made a comment that I thought was very important and very pertinent. With her permission, I’m posting it here as a guest post, and am letting it stand on its own. Trigger warning: description of violent rape, and of rape victims not being believed.

*

I’ve been working the feminist beat for years now, and have seen lots and lots of stories about sexual harassment and rape. I have never once seen the victim go without being called a liar. Not once. And that includes a case where there was a video of the assault where the victim was clearly so intoxicated as to be unable to move—some people thought she was dead—and the rapists assaulted her so badly she peed herself. That girl was called a liar and the usual cries of “more evidence needed” were issued, resulting in at least one and possibly two hung juries before they could get a conviction. Women are considered guilty until proven innocent, and the trick is that there’s no level of proof sufficient to win the argument with the “skeptics”.

Our culture starts from the assumption that women’s natural state is lying. How that obvious untruth got so ingrained is hard to really account for, but that’s true of many stereotypes that, no matter how ludicrous they are when you really look at them, are nonetheless widely believed. It’s also cross-cultural, thus the Muslim religious rule about rape not being believable without four male witnesses.

Of course, the problem is that disbelieving accounts of rape and harassment as your initial stance is basically giving permission to rapists and harassers. Most of them know well enough to wait until they’re alone with the target to get aggressive. They know that when both they and the target walk away, the person whose account is given the benefit of the doubt—even past the point of ludicrousness—is theirs.

Comments

  1. gwen says

    At 14, I was the victim of a man who attempted to kidnap me, failing this, he beat the shit out of me before I managed to escape. I was walking home from school. My dad called the police, who belittled and blamed me. They did not even take a report, because obviously, I was ‘asking’ for it.

  2. says

    But don’t we disbelieve (in one sense) all reports of crime until investigated and shown to be true?

    My sense on first reading of what Amanda is saying here is that we should apply a special standard to claims of rape – that the accused is guilty until proven innocent, and that’s a pretty disturbing thing to contemplate. I’m about to go and read the thread she posted in, so will know later if I’m wrong. If I am wrong, anyone out there please feel free to let me know.

  3. cortex says

    But don’t we disbelieve (in one sense) all reports of crime until investigated and shown to be true?

    Um, no. See: racism.

    When the accused is a member of the applicable dominant group, the standard of evidence becomes very different (hardly ever in word, nearly always in deed) than when they are a member of a subordinate group, as illustrated by Amanda’s examples.

  4. Pteryxx says

    My sense on first reading of what Amanda is saying here is that we should apply a special standard to claims of rape –

    Read it again without turning off your brain at the mere mention of “rape” and “women”. That’s an egregious misrepresentation – that strawperson was on fire before you even finished it. Did you miss the part about videotaped evidence being ignored?

    There already IS a “special standard” for rape claims and similar – overwhelmingly, blaming the victim and making any ridiculous excuse for the assailant. For any other claim – burglaries, assaults, theft – the victim’s credible enough for the crime to be investigated further.

  5. says

    But don’t we disbelieve (in one sense) all reports of crime until investigated and shown to be true?

    No. We assume that the victim is not making up, but we also don’t assume that we know right away who the perpetrator is.

    Filing false reports is actually illegal. In fact, there was a woman in Oregon who was prosecuted and fined for falsely claiming to have been raped. Later, the police arrested a rapist and discovered video footage of him raping the woman on it.

    My sense on first reading of what Amanda is saying here is that we should apply a special standard to claims of rape – that the accused is guilty until proven innocent, and that’s a pretty disturbing thing to contemplate.

    Good thing that’s not what she’s saying. What she’s saying, O insufferably, inexcusably Uninformed One, is that we should STOP applying a special standard to rape cases, where the victims are automatically treated as liars.

    If you discovered that your roommate had stolen money from you, and you went to the police, would you expect them to treat you as if you were too stupid to know how much money you kept around the house? Should they interrogate you about whether you just experienced regret after the fact, when really your roommate was just very persuasive in convincing you to give him money? Should they interrogate your history of charitable donations to establish whether or not you’re of sufficiently good character for a conviction of anyone accused of stealing from you to hold up in court?

    I’m about to go and read the thread she posted in, so will know later if I’m wrong. If I am wrong, anyone out there please feel free to let me know.

    Yeah, that’s the idea. Post something stupendously assholish, in FULL KNOWLEDGE that you’re probably wrong, and expect others (the people in the marginalized population to which you do not belong) to do your homework for you.

    Go away and do not come back. Go read a Feminism 101 blog. Then look up RAINN and read their website. Then go read Manboobz.com. THEN come back and post here, if you still feel it’s absolutely necessary.

    ARGH! I AM SO FUCKING SICK OF THIS SHIT!

  6. Stacy says

    But don’t we disbelieve (in one sense) all reports of crime until investigated and shown to be true

    In a court of law, the accused is to be assumed innocent until proven guilty.

    Outside of a court of law, tell me: have you ever known anybody who was the victim of a crime?

    Ever have a friend or relative who was burgled? Or mugged?

    Did you disbelieve them when they told you? Did you or other people accuse them of lying? If they went to the police, did the police dismiss or belittle their claim? Did anyone blame them for what happened?

    Because that’s what happens, routinely, to rape victims.

  7. Gregory in Seattle says

    As chance would happen, this image was making the rounds with my Facebook associates today. I think it sums up the situation all too well.

  8. Erista (aka Eris) says

    But don’t we disbelieve (in one sense) all reports of crime until investigated and shown to be true?

    WTF?

    Jesus Christ. I want you to imagine that you are at a conference. You are security. A woman who looks shakey comes up to you and tells you that she was coming down from her room in the elevator, alone, when a man got in with her. Once the doors closed, he groped her. When they got to the ground floor, he got off. There were no witnesses. There is no physical evidence. Maybe you go talk to him and he denies it. Now what? Just how do you expect her to show you that her report is true? What do you propose that she do to convince you to do something? Or are you saying that you don’t expect her to show it to be true, that you simply think that she should be disbelieved, and that you think we should all be fine with this?

    Because while people like you call for proof! proof! proof!, but I don’t know what you mean when you say that, I certainly have no idea what kind of evidence could possibly be provided by anyone in situations like the one I mentioned above.

  9. DLC says

    @#3 : Racism is not in and of itself a crime. Racism is often the motivating factor behind a crime, and is morally wrong, but in the United States you can’t be jailed for being a racist.
    You confuse wrong with criminal offense.

    @#2 : no, that’s not what is being said. The legal “gold standard” in the United States is “innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. ” but that is in a court of law. If you were to go to the police and report that you were robbed, it is the duty of police to take that report seriously, assume you were robbed, and act upon the information you provide to apprehend the guilty party. But when it comes to rape or sexual assault, all too often the reverse has been true. The police refuse to take the complaint seriously unless there is compelling physical evidence of a rape and an immediate identification of the rapist.
    In these same United States, it was completely legal to rape your wife, until the late 70s. Martial rape was finally declared a human rights violation in 1993 by the UN.

  10. DLC says

    A slight edit to my previous (9) :
    strike “the police refuse . . . ” and replace it with “Fequently, police would refuse . . .”

  11. cortex says

    @DLC

    I was referring to the role of racism in people’s assumptions about a party’s guilt or innocence, not the role of racism in the crime itself, or racism as a crime.

  12. Jurjen S. says

    I don’t see that That Other Mike’s point is so outlandish; before the police will investigate a case, let alone haul a suspect in for questioning, they do typically expect to see some evidence that an offense actually took place. They certainly require some corroborating evidence as to the identity of the perpetrator.

    Look, it’s happened to me that I’ve been assaulted, walked into the nearest police station with bruised lips and bleeding gums from a couple of punches to the face, and the duty cop told me, in so many words, that unless I could provide some witnesses to the incident, it’d be the word of the guy who punched me against mine, leaving them with in effect nothing to go on.

    A unique problem with sexual assault and rape is that any resulting physical evidence is all too often also consistent with consensual sexual activity, and that’s something that can severely hamper an investigation, let alone a prosecution and a conviction. I’m not denying that it does happen that reports of rape/sexual assault aren’t treated with the seriousness they deserve (to put it mildly), but what I am trying to say is that we should be cautious about interpreting a case in which the cops said “look, if all we have is your word against his, we don’t have enough to justify pursuing this matter” as an example of refusal to take the victim seriously, because that *does* happen in the case of other offenses as well.

  13. DLC says

    Cortex@11 : sorry, your intent wasn’t clear to me. It appeared you were suggesting racism as an example of crimes wherein the victim’s complaint is taken seriously.

  14. says

    I was going to post about the one time I’ve seen a harassment victim not be blamed (in my college dorm, with a small close-knit community, with very supportive administrators and a generally feminist student body, and when the asshole who did it apologized immediately and agreed to go into therapy).

    But now my forehead is bleeding from the headdesk.

    Seriously, read a basic civics text. “Innocent until proven guilty” applies only to legal sanctions. It means the government can’t punish you until you’ve been proven guilty (though it can take reasonable measures, including incarceration, to ensure that you appear for trial). It does not mean that a reasonable person must assume a defendant is innocent until a “guilty” verdict comes in. When the DC snipers were brought in nobody assumed they were innocent (except by reason of insanity). It does not mean we assume the victim or other witnesses are lying. When Kip Kinkel was arrested for the school shooting in Springfield, Oregon in 1998, no one assumed his victims and the students that subdued him were lying. The court system most certainly did not, since that would be violating the rule of “innocent until proven guilty” itself.

    Agh. Seriously? I need to go get a bandaid now.

  15. says

    Sorry to double post, but I didn’t see this until I posted (Jurjen S @12):

    before the police will investigate a case, let alone haul a suspect in for questioning, they do typically expect to see some evidence that an offense actually took place.

    No. Just no.

    A victim’s testimony is evidence. It’s certainly probable cause, often preponderance of evidence, and in some (rare) cases it’s beyond a reasonable doubt.

    And that’s besides the point, because we’re not talking about the judicial system, which is obligated to give defendants the benefit of every reasonable doubt. We’re talking about conferences, the general public, and the police, who have no such duty.

  16. says

    Thanks Jeff.

    It is just so frustrating and discouraging to see men, who doubtless think of themselves as kind and reasonable people, to innocently ask, “What is so unreasonable about reflexively accusing every women who reports being raped or assaulted or harassed of being a liar?”

    A Georgia state legislator thought it is so eminently logical to assume all women lie about gendered violence that he proposed a bill that would relabel women reporting rape, stalking, and domestic violence as “accusers” rather than “victims.”

    People reporting other crimes, such as burglary and assault, would naturally still remain “victims.”

    Yeah, a “special standard” for rape. The Other Mike will probably not be back to answer for his disgusting failure to pay attention to the basic human rights of his fellow citizens.

  17. rhett samios says

    Personally I think there’s a difference between merely contemplating the fact that the victim may have had something to do with the act and it being a ‘default assumption’. That strikes me as a strawman of the situation.

    Also, I notice you only concerned yourself with female rape. Why would that be?

  18. says

    @2: I can see how you might think this in a vacuum, but watch the actual cases people are referring to. No one is saying that anyone who is accused should be immediately fired from their jobs, jailed, etc or that we should never question whether there might be a reason to lie. Nor is anyone saying women never make false accusations for petty revenge or other reasons. The complaint is that people treat such accusations way differently than other accusations of wrong-doing. I wouldn’t even dispute that it’s quite possible in current society for a guy to face serious social sanctions on a false accusation. Society isn’t a monolith and both things can happen on the same accusation, in fact.

    The point is that there are quite a few people who treat sexual wrongdoing, at least with a male suspect and female victim, way differently than anything else. If a guy gets accused of embezzlement, we might doubt the veracity of the accusation, but no one is going to insist that we should just ignore the accusation because it isn’t proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. if security footage shows up of him cashing some company checks made out to cash, people aren’t going to insist that it’s possible that they doesn’t prove anything because you can’t read the check in the footage and maybe those got in the drawer some other way and the teller is lying/mistaken, and so are the other two people who saw him. There are quite a few people who will do that on any harassment claim.

    Just look back a few threads and see the people who showed up to argue that just because a guy is known to have taken upskirts in the past and is now carrying a camera at ankle level and pointed up, it isn’t fair to suspect that he might be taking them now and approaching him and asking to see his camera is a terrible violation of his rights. Also, how do we know he was carrying his camera like that? All we have is three people’s word. One took his picture for ID purposes, but how do we know that they weren’t making it up? I’ve never seen anybody outside a religious leader get so many people willing to believe any defense for anything except sexual harassment and related offenses.

  19. Greta Christina says

    Look, it’s happened to me that I’ve been assaulted, walked into the nearest police station with bruised lips and bleeding gums from a couple of punches to the face, and the duty cop told me, in so many words, that unless I could provide some witnesses to the incident, it’d be the word of the guy who punched me against mine, leaving them with in effect nothing to go on.

    Jurjen S. @ #12: I am going to try to spell this out very, very clearly, and am going to attempt to be calm in doing so.

    There is a difference between having police respond to a crime victim by saying, “We’re sorry, we believe that you were assaulted, but without witnesses we probably can’t build a case that would hold up in court” — and having police respond to a crime victim by treating them like a liar.

    Did you read the post? Do you think that, if your assailant had been caught on video assaulting you, you would have been called a liar? That there would have been public cries of “more evidence needed”? That there would have been a hung jury? This is what happens to rape victims. It is widely reported and well-documented. Why are you so intent on denying it?

  20. Greta Christina says

    Uh, maybe because men basically don’t get raped outside of prison?

    Jeff @ #18: Actually, they do. And male rape victims also experience reluctance to report, and are often not believed, and are shamed into not reporting and under-reporting. It’s a different dynamic in some ways that what happens with female rape victims, similar in others.

    But rape and sexual assault is overwhelmingly male on female. And this topic is important, and is worth talking about. It is reasonable to bring up the question of male rape victims. It is not, however, reasonable or right to bring it up in attempt to derail a discussion of male-on-female rape and sexual assault.

  21. says

    Everyone is familiar with Halloween candy myths, those urban legends about razor blades being distributed with trick-or-treat candy. It happens, but our fear is out of all proportion to actual risks. Sometimes, women lie about being raped. It happens, but our readiness to expect lies is out of all proportion to actual incidents of such prevarication.

    Why are we willing to believe in false bogeymen, yet unwilling to believe in real victims?

    I suggest this answer: it is less frightening to believe in amorphous imaginary beings than it is to believe that a peer belonging to our dominant group is a secret monster.

    Fellow men, let’s fulfill our responsibilities as humans. Some of our members are monsters. Denying this won’t make them go away. However, acknowledging that they exist — and in far greater numbers than fake accusers — might at least begin to make the world safer for half of our species.

  22. Anonymous says

    Attempted rape by my father at age 15, got called a liar by his side of the family. I had been abandoned by my mother’s side of the family so I was in the custody of the State. He did get prosecuted… for battery and was sentenced to three months in jail.

    Drugged and raped by four young men at age 18. I was told I didn’t have a case at the police station. No physical exam was offered.

  23. says

    Personally I think there’s a difference between merely contemplating the fact that the victim may have had something to do with the act and it being a ‘default assumption’. That strikes me as a strawman of the situation.

    State legislators are trying to encode the attitude that women a reflexive liars into law, and you think characterizing this attitude as a default is a straw man?

    Go on…

    /Jon Stewart

  24. KT says

    Yes, innocent until proven guilty is the standard we apply to criminal proceedings, but that does not mean that we automatically presume the complainant is lying. In an ideal world, it means we gather the evidence in a thorough and fair manner and assess the evidence from an impartial point of view. Basically, it assumes that the victim is telling the truth as they perceive it, but the evidence must be examined and compared to the law to determine whether the alleged perpetrator is in fact the perpetrator and what crime the facts prove happened, if any.

    I can add a recent anecdote from my home town. A woman reported that she believed she was raped after she passed out from alcohol consumption. The man who had had sex with her turned himself in and she provided a taped conversation in which he first said that he believed there was consent because she had voluntarily gotten naked with him previous to the intercourse. He admitted that she had passed out but did not admit whether he had sex with her after that, but rather got kind of fuzzy on that point. The DA did not press charges due to “lack of evidence.” Apparently a victim is to be grilled in detail about what they think happened, but the accused can say they are pretty sure everythng that happened was a-ok and that is good enough to drop thecase. In the meantime, virtually all public comment was to the effect that whatever happened was her fault for drinking too much (apparently men do not share the same responsibility though – in fact, many of these same people felt the drinking was a point in his defense). She was demonized for attempting to “ruin the man’s life.”

    I don’t know that the man was guilty and I don’t know if he would have been convicted, but I was surprised to find that no charges were even pressed and was saddened to see the abuse heaped on the poor woman who at the very least was going through a traumatic experience even if it wasn’t rape.

    As for ruining people’s lives, I know of at least one woman who was forced to drop out of a prestigious university due to the backlash from her accusation of rape and go to community college. This was in addition to dropping the charges after she was no longer able to emotionally stand up to the social pressure from law enforcement and the school community. The three men who had allegedly raped her had virtually no effects on their lives. They went on to graduate, get great jobs and start families. So making an accusation of rape is FAR from a risk-free proposition just for the sake of punishing some guy, as so many people seem to believe.

  25. says

    Attempted rape by my father at age 15, got called a liar by his side of the family. I had been abandoned by my mother’s side of the family so I was in the custody of the State. He did get prosecuted… for battery and was sentenced to three months in jail.

    Drugged and raped by four young men at age 18. I was told I didn’t have a case at the police station. No physical exam was offered.

    I am so sorry this happened to you. Thank you for revealing part of your story to us.

  26. says

    Greta @#21: I realize that, which is what “basically” meant. I wasn’t trying to minimize male rape victims, but make essentially the point you did. By being flippant I failed at it. Sorry about that.

    And actually, I’ve come across something disturbing. Nobody seems to know how many non-prison rapes of men occur (not that we know how many prison rapes occur). I see stats like 10% of victims are men being thrown around, but they’re based on such absurdly low sample sizes (<10) as to be effectively meaningless. The NCVS doesn't report confidence intervals (probably because if they did they'd have to admit they don't actually know whether crime went down or not), but they've got to be enormous. Back of the envelope, it could be half that or half again as much. To get a halfway decent estimate you'd need a sample near two million.

  27. says

    No offense, Jeff, but what you are addressing @#27 still seems like a derail, as the topic here is unambiguously male-on-female rape and sexual assault.

  28. screechy monkey says

    Just wanted to mention: anyone here who doesn’t have Pandagon bookmarked, should. Oh, and to Amanda: the one good thing to come out of Rachel Larrimore’s bullshit posts at Slate’s XX Club is that I would anticipate your response, and eventually asked myself, “why aren’t I reading this person’s blog?”

  29. says

    Incested by mother & father: nobody believed me. Assaulted by uncle: aunt stopped speaking to me. Beaten by husband: I was accused of faking injuries. Right now: mentally unstable neighbor vandalizing my property, stealing my pets, looking in my windows, threatening to kill me & dogs. Landlord calls me “paranoid.” Also says I’m a witch b/c I have a “coexist” flag, which is Satanic: his excuse to be abusive to me & dismiss my fears. Trailer nearly burned up in electrical fire b/c neighbor broke util. pole. I’m afraid to tell landlord. It’s an RV park; he could evict me on 24 hrs. notice. I have no $ & can’t move.

  30. says

    State legislators are trying to encode the attitude that women a reflexive liars into law, and you think characterizing this attitude as a default is a straw man?

    Fuck state legislators, case law for rape has been and continues to do it for centuries, starting with the Star Court that created the common law. They’d just be catching up with judges. But we can’t treat that as the default, oh no.

  31. says

    My sense on first reading of what Amanda is saying here is that we should apply a special standard to claims of rape – that the accused is guilty until proven innocent, and that’s a pretty disturbing thing to contemplate.

    No, we should apply regular standards, not the victim is guilty of lieing until proven innocent.
    The normal standard is to assume the complainant has credibility, investigate based on the rights for someone to protection of the law, and to pursue the matter in court, where the accused has the right to address the accuser. That’s SOP.

    Men have spread propaganda that being falsely accused is more prevalent and damaging than what happens to rape victims when they are immediately classified as vindictive bitches with an agenda.

    It’s a fucking double standard, imposing the view that men are more important than women, and the insidious result is that a woman has to battle stigma every step of the way, with only her(or him) being at risk for ostracization.

    Rape is a very serious fucking crime, and it should be treated like murder by the justice system, and not sensationalized by the press. If reporting and promoting scandal wasn’t the primary agenda of the media, perhaps this shit wouldn’t be so problematic, and there should be some discretion re-established in reporting and editorializing, and the fucking hysterical, over reacting fearful whinging of the sheep in society in general.

  32. left0ver1under says

    Gregory in Seattle says (#7):

    As chance would happen, this image was making the rounds with my Facebook associates today. I think it sums up the situation all too well.

    That image is a keeper, brilliant and succinct. But it does pose one question, asked rhetorically for all and not directed at you:

    When the hell did we go from “don’t rape” to “don’t get raped”? Maybe I was naive as a kid, but I always remember it being the former, not the latter.

  33. says

    @left0ver1under in #35:

    When the hell did we go from “don’t rape” to “don’t get raped”? Maybe I was naive as a kid, but I always remember it being the former, not the latter.

    Glad you were brought up by decent people then, but surely even you must have seen that “rape prevention” is virtually always a list of things women should do to don’t get raped? What not to wear, where not to go, what not to drink?

  34. machintelligence says

    @ 35 & 36

    When the hell did we go from “don’t rape” to “don’t get raped”? Maybe I was naive as a kid, but I always remember it being the former, not the latter.

    Sorry for pointing out the obvious, but males are told “don’t rape” and females are told “don’t get raped”.

  35. says

    Wow. So I make the mistake of going to bed for a few hours and apparently I’m all kinds of a monster and such.

    Sally Strange et al – you’re completely wrong about me, and you’ve jumped to some totally wrong conclusions. I’m not yet going to do a full and complete post in response to all of the accusations, because, well, what you’ve done is basically functionally equivalent to the Gish Gallop, and I have other stuff outside the internet which requires my attention first.

    That said, I will reply, either here or on my own blog.

  36. says

    @machintelligence in #37:

    Sorry for pointing out the obvious, but males are told “don’t rape” and females are told “don’t get raped”.

    Where the latter is both far more common and far less helpful than the former. Since we’re pointing out the obvious and all.

  37. Jeannie_in_PA says

    This very same thing is happening now in the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia trial. His victims, all male, are being labeled as liars, manipulators, money-grubbers. Sexual crimes are horrifying in so many ways, not the least of which is the tarring of the victim.

  38. says

    I should have mentioned sports superstars as another exception to the usual rules. In practice, it’s not too different from a cult leader.

  39. says

    Do we get to choose which it will be?

    You can make a suggestion if you like; it really depends upon how long the reply will be or if it amounts to several replies. If it starts to get really lengthy, I’ll blog it and link back from here, because it’s not polite to drop walls of text on other people’s blogs.

  40. HP says

    @machintelligence: I’m a male, and I was never told “don’t rape.” I was given a lot of bullshit religious indoctrination about “resisting temptation,” but the assumption was always that the temptation was real, and it was the Devil using some woman to lure me into sin.

    But, at no point in my life, have I ever been given the message from people in authority that I shouldn’t rape women because women are fully human beings deserving of personal autonomy. I had to figure that out on my own, by listening to women, embracing humanism, and using reason and empathy.

  41. Gregory in Seattle says

    @left0ver1under #35 –

    When the hell did we go from “don’t rape” to “don’t get raped”? Maybe I was naive as a kid, but I always remember it being the former, not the latter.

    I’m almost 45, and to my knowledge it has always been that way. As a male, the message in the occasional health class in school or college seminar was “No means no.” Rarely, there was some added material about when “Yes” should be treated as “No” because of an inability to give informed consent.

    In contrast, my women friends say that the message they got was a laundry list of what not to wear, where not to go and who not to speak with. They were warned not to drink at parties, because inebriation and the inability to fight off an attack is frequently seen as legal consent. They were warned that if they find themselves in a situation where they need to defend themselves, they will be more likely charged with assault than their would-be attackers will be charged with attempted assault.

    These very different messages get reinforced constantly in the media, in the news and in the courts: the victim of sexual assault — which encompasses much more than just rape — is automatically a liar and probably instigated the whole thing. This attitude needs to be fought.

  42. says

    Yes, I was definitely raised being told not to rape, too. This also appears in the media. Making a character a date-rapist is an easy way to make the audience hate him (see Back to the Future, for instance), but there’s a huge difference in how much it gets laid on.

  43. says

    Excuse me, Mike, but have you read the Feminism 101 blog yet? Have you checked out RAINN? Read Manboobz?

    If not then you have no basis to complain that I was wrong about you. You are still insufferably, inexcusably uninformed. You were wrong. But you weren’t just wrong in a random way. You were wrong in a specific way that parallels the wrongness of active misogynists–you know, those people who are dedicated and deliberate about their contempt and hatred for women. Your wrongness is not innocent, the misperceptions and false beliefs you spouted are the same that are currently doing damage to women and victims of sexual violence of all genders in this society.

    Don’t explain, don’t justify. Apologize.

  44. Anri says

    My sense on first reading of what Amanda is saying here is that we should apply a special standard to claims of rape – that the accused is guilty until proven innocent, and that’s a pretty disturbing thing to contemplate. I’m about to go and read the thread she posted in, so will know later if I’m wrong. If I am wrong, anyone out there please feel free to let me know.

    Ok, you’re wrong.

    What Amanda is saying has nothing at all to do with the accused. It has to do with the victim.

    She’s arguing that the first thing we should say in response to “I was raped.” isn’t “Hmm, are you sure?”, but “I believe you, how can we help?” Believing a crime took place and prosecuting the criminal are two different things. One is important to the other, but they are different things.

    I don’t know your gender, and it’s none of my business, but one reason people might be reacting badly to what you are saying is that – as is so common in discussions of this nature – your comment appears to be an attempt to change the discussion from women to men. Overwhelmingly, the perpetrators of rape are men. By a substantial margin, the victims of rape are women. In taking a discussion about how society perceives rape victims and immediately asking “But what about the perpetrators?”, it really sounds like the hoary cry of “But what about the MENZ?!?”
    I have no reason to suspect that’s what you were attempting to do with your comment, but it is likely to be read that way.

  45. Gregory in Seattle says

    Oops, meant to add….

    As we have seen clearly — ok, as some of us have seen clearly — in recent months, even if it is conceded that something inappropriate happened, the victim is “blowing things out of proportion” or “it wasn’t so bad, why are you making a big deal out of it?” It makes it very difficult for victims of sexual assault to stand up and call it for what it is: assault.

    Yes, there are occasionally liars, but the vast majority of women — and men, too — who say they have been sexually assaulted are telling the truth. A decent society should take these statements at face value and act accordingly until evidence proves otherwise.

  46. Gregory in Seattle says

    @Anri #49 –

    … the first thing we should say in response to “I was raped.” isn’t “Hmm, are you sure?”, but “I believe you, how can we help?”

    This, exactly.

  47. says

    machineintelligence @ #37 and HP @ # 45: Ditto what HP said. My high school, and my circle in particular, was pretty liberal, I had a number of feminist teachers (not that I recognized them as feminist at the time), and the administration and faculty worked hard to create safe spaces for LGBTQ kids, girls, and other minorities (which, being disabled, I really appreciated).

    I was never told not to rape. In health class there was a bit on unhealthy relationships and how to get out of them, but the closest thing to “don’t rape” was the sexual harassment policies posted in every classroom. Which I’m pretty sure only I read, and then only because I compulsively read signs.

    I was also never told how not to rape. Yeah, it sounds obvious, but for a lot of guys it’s clearly not. Enough men think that certain forms of acquaintance rape aren’t really rape that this is important.

    Sure, it was kind of obvious for me: it didn’t (and doesn’t) sound like fun to have sex when the other person isn’t enjoying it, and even if it did I have the minuscule amount of empathy to realize that it’s wrong. But for someone with a toxic view of masculinity and women, that message is necessary. It needs to be drilled into their heads until they get it. And it’s not.

    And chaswarren @ #30, *sigh*, you’re right. I’ll say one last thing on that: at some point in the near future (= next three weeks) I’ll put up a post about this at Lies, Damn Lies, and…, since this isn’t the place for that discussion. If anyone’s interested, subscribe to the RSS feed or check in periodically.

  48. Gregory in Seattle says

    @Jeff #52 – “I was also never told how not to rape.”

    I was going to respond to Ace of Sevens’ comment (#47) about date rape, but this is better. When is consent given, and when is it withdrawn? Does consent to one sex act imply a consent to future sex acts? Is there such a thing as “implied consent” which does not require explicit, verbal authorization?

    Laws are typically unclear on these points, and the courts have been disturbingly inconsistent with their rulings. In the United States, rape is like obsenity: the operative definition is “I know it when I see it.” The problem is that a lot of people don’t know what to look for. Education on how not to rape would be an excellent step towards changing that.

  49. says

    @53: I really doubt very many rapes happen because guys don’t know better or have a misunderstanding because no one ever explained how consent works. I’m sure a couple have happened at some point, but almost all are due to the guy not caring. He may think he’s getting by on technicalities, but the root is that he doesn’t particularly care about whether his victim consents or he gets off on her not consenting. Everybody knows that having sex with a woman who’s incapacitated is not respecting her autonomy whether they know to call it rape or not.

  50. says

    As for guys being told not to rape, apparently there are plenty of guys who will admit to rape as long as you don’t use the R-word. If they were told not to rape, I guess someone forgot to tell them what exactly they weren’t supposed to do.

    As for guys simply not understanding consent, well, maybe they understand just fine, but they just don’t care.

    I consider both links to be required reading (although I bet most people here have seen them already at some point or another).

  51. says

    To clarify: I’ve seen pretty much all male victims treated the same way. But it’s important to remember that in nearly all cases with male victims, the perpetrator is also male. Being vicitmized is seen as “feminizing” the victim, I think, and so the usual tropes about those deemed feminine—that they’re liars and ingrates—come into play.

  52. says

    How not to rape: Only have sex with people who want to have sex with you.

    The claim that this is difficult is one made by rapists and rape apologists who are trying to provide cover for rapists. Negative stereotypes of women (or those deemed woman-ish) reinforce this lie.

  53. says

    http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500690_162-5590118.html

    Numbers for comparison:

    Rape in this country is surprisingly easy to get away with. The arrest rate last year was just 25 percent – a fraction of the rate for murder – 79 percent, and aggravated assault – 51 percent.

    Rape is only reported half the time, and the conviction rate of those arrested is shockingly low. Basically, if you rape someone, you’ll probably get away with it. That is why rape is so common. It has nothing to do with victims being inadequate in self-defense.

  54. says

    The issue isn’t that people aren’t being told not to rape. It’s that they aren’t seeing this a a principle to internalize, but a rule to technically follow while trying to get around it as best as possible. It’s kind of like being a telemarketer. Women have something they want and their job is to get it by any means necessary without technically breaking the law. It largely comes of seeing sex as something you convince people to give you rather than a cooperative venture.

  55. says

    Amanda Marcotte @ #57:

    How not to rape: Only have sex with people who want to have sex with you.

    The claim that this is difficult is one made by rapists and rape apologists who are trying to provide cover for rapists.

    Of course it’s not difficult. But our culture unfortunately has an image of rape and rapists, and it’s not people who don’t stop when they’re told to, it’s not having sex without first determining beyond a reasonable doubt that your partner wants it, and it’s not getting someone drunk so they’re more pliant.

    Kids need to be taught enthusiastic consent, because even if it’s obvious to us, our culture in general opposes the idea.

  56. says

    I’ve lived a largely sheltered life, on easy mode as a white male. Thankfully, I got the “don’t rape” message pretty clearly, and I did get some sex ed on the topic. One video they showed my class had some attempted rationalizations from the rapist and his friends as he was trying to deal with the guilt. The usual: She was asking for it by dressing skimpy, she was drunk and won’t remember it, she kissed him at one point before, she was at a wild party, etcetera. The class handout pointed out that none of those things meant consent to sex. It got me decently worried about how to request clearance in a non-mood-killing way if I ever got in the situation.

    For quite a while, I didn’t really understand the other half of the video: The victim’s friend had to talk her into reporting the rape and prevent her from downplaying the significance of the crime. Seeing the public’s attitude in the media over the years got me to understand: Women are reluctant to report rapes because they’re probably going to be put under greater scrutiny than the rapist because a lot of people are going to assume she’s lying about the whole thing. Being male and lacking sisters, I never got that perspective in my youth.

    Of course, the assumption that the rape victim is lying isn’t exclusively against women. I’ve seen a fair bit in cases of child rape, usually when the accused rapist was someone of influence. Parents are accused of coaching their kids so they can make money off of lawsuits and such. Given how things are inherently stacked against rape and harassment victims, I have no problems understanding and believing that it’s a horribly under-reported crime.

    Being exposed to rape culture in news and politics was horribly disillusioning. I knew since I was a teen that Rush Limbaugh had a lot of rhetoric about women giving out false accusations of sexual harassment, to the point of claiming that harassment settlements cancel out paycheck inequality. I was able to go on for a while thinking he was just the lunatic fringe, but I’m seeing it’s a mainstream attitude today.

  57. wwe23423 says

    You always find some nutjob who will call a woman a liar. I don’t think that is really relevant. I think that women by-and-large are believed. Case in point when Rebecca Watson described the elevator incident nobody (maybe except for the lone nutjob) called her a liar or questioned what she said really happened. In the case of DSK the woman was believed from the very beginning and the case was only dropped after evidence appeared that questioned her reliability.

    But that’s not the reason I’m posting. Take the pedophile cases in the Catholic church. The problem was not that nobody believed the children. The church authorities very much believed the children that’s why they so desperately tried to cover up the abuse. But if assume that nobody beliefs children you probably not going solve the problem.

  58. says

    [Jeff]: But our culture unfortunately has an image of rape and rapists, and it’s not people who don’t stop when they’re told to, it’s not having sex without first determining beyond a reasonable doubt that your partner wants it, and it’s not getting someone drunk so they’re more pliant.

    There’s that part of the image, yeah. This intersects with the aspect where a rapist is expected to be a stranger lurking in a dark alley on the “bad side” of town. This perception leads to a lot of excuses for rapists on the “grounds” that they do not meet the “typical” profile. Yet that profile is just an illusion; it doesn’t coincide with the majority of actual rapists.

    What does a rapist look like? Well, like any other man, and often much the same as the “fine, upstanding” members of the community.

  59. says

    I think that women by-and-large are believed

    You live in a world of fantasy.

    In the case of DSK the woman was believed from the very beginning

    Good example, choose the case where the public was saying from the start she just wanted money from a rich dude, and where the french were saying this was only happening because DSK wasn’t popular with the USA.

  60. says

    You always find some nutjob who will call a woman a liar.

    You can always find quite a few, actually. This isn’t true of other offenses unless the alleged perp is a beloved celebrity of some sort.

  61. Brad says

    wwe23423:
    You always find some nutjob who will call a woman a liar. I don’t think that is really relevant. I think that women by-and-large are believed. Case in point when Rebecca Watson described the elevator incident nobody (maybe except for the lone nutjob) called her a liar or questioned what she said really happened.

    (Quoted for batshit insane crazy.)

    Whaaaat??

    Do you really not know the extent to which Rebecca has been accused over the past 12 months of lying, making it up, misrepresenting what happened, misunderstanding the situation, using the situation to “advance her own agenda”, etc., etc., etc. x10,000 !?!?

  62. Leni says

    @ Deen

    Holy crap that first study you posted should be required reading for, well, everyone.

    Following the points that:

    1. Most of the rapes ( as reported by the rapists themselves) are committed by a relatively small percentage of the total rapist population (i.e. repeat offenders) and

    2. Because they are numerous enough that many of us probably know such a person and

    3. Because they are prolific enough (averaging something like 5 victims each) that we almost certainly know their victims and

    4. Because these same men are also responsible for a number of other crimes, including spousal and child abuse

    I think the following point is perhaps more salient than simply telling men “don’t rape”:

    Change the culture. To rape again and again, these men need silence. They need to know that the right combination of factors — alcohol and sex shame, mostly — will keep their victims quiet. Otherwise, they would be identified earlier and have a harder time finding victims. The women in your life need to be able to talk frankly about sexual assault. They need to be able to tell you, and they need to know that they can tell you, and not be stonewalled, denied, blamed or judged.”

    Bing-fucking-go!

    ***

    If you are reading this thread and didn’t read Deen’s link (re-posted in my comment above), go do it now!

  63. Leni says

    PS It occurs to me that my last post might have sounded like I was trying to downplay one-time offenders. I wasn’t.

    I just wanted to emphasize the fact that every time we participate in victim-blaming in order to save the reputation of a person that we assume is a one-time-offender, we run a serious risk of ensuring that person can assault again.

    Bros before hos, as the article put it.

  64. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Making a character a date-rapist is an easy way to make the audience hate him (see Back to the Future, for instance),

    I would slightly disagree. With the BTTF example, as in many, many others, sexual assault/rape is a plot device for a male character. In BTTF, Biff’s assaulting Lorraine is how George McFly becomes a MAY-UN! when he TKOs Biff. The entire Death Wish series is male revenge fantasies, using a woman’s gang rape as its impetus. Nothing is ever said about the woman – it’s all about the men. It’s pretty clearly painting rape as a crime against the women’s owner. yes, it is designed to make the audience hate him, but it’s certainly not designed to create sympathy for the victim or to argue against rape culture.

    You always find some nutjob who will call a woman a liar. I don’t think that is really relevant. I think that women by-and-large are believed

    And I believe that that Nigerian Prince who e-mailed me is legit! I don’t need to read all the links provided that directly refute me! I live in a magical fantasy land where what I want to be true is magically true.

  65. Emburii says

    Funny, I’ve seen several of Rebecca Watson’s detractors say things like ‘do we even know there was a guy in an elevator with her like she says’?

    Not to mention that DSK’s victim was specifically advised to embroider a previous assault because her defense team figured she might not be believed even despite the massive amount of evidence; they wanted to find some way, any way to combat the hyper-skepticism they KNEW would happen, because it is a fact.

  66. Tony... therefore God says

    @35:

    When the hell did we go from “don’t rape” to “don’t get raped”? Maybe I was naive as a kid, but I always remember it being the former, not the latter.

    That’s a good question. This might shed some light on how and/or why some people blame the victim, instead of the proper response (for those that don’t know, the proper response is to put the blame on the rapist. Period.)-

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_rape_and_aftermath
    It has been proposed that one cause of victim blaming is the just world hypothesis. People who believe that the world is intrinsically fair may find it difficult or impossible to accept a situation in which a person is badly hurt for no reason. This leads to a sense that victims must have done something to deserve their fate.

    and this:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/daily-dish/archive/2009/09/a-just-world/196991/
    The sight of an innocent person suffering without possibility of reward or compensation motivated people to devalue the attractiveness of the victim in order to bring about a more appropriate fit between her fate and her character.”…
    …Subsequent studies have found that people with “a strong tendency to believe in a just world” tend to exhibit certain characteristics: they’re much more likely to admire political leaders and existing social institutions, and have negative attitudes toward underprivileged groups. Furthermore,they “feel less of a need to engage in activities to change society or to alleviate plight of social victims.”

    If the Just World Hypothesis is accurate, my next question is: How do we work to change that mentality? Critical thinking and Skepticism sound like useful tools to combat this.

  67. Stacy says

    @Emburi #70

    Funny, I’ve seen several of Rebecca Watson’s detractors say things like ‘do we even know there was a guy in an elevator with her like she says’?

    One prominent douchemuffin has gone around saying “I checked and Rebecca’s room was on the first floor!!!” (In fact, in Ireland, as in the UK, the “first floor” is what Yanks call the second floor.)

  68. Stacy says

    @Tony…therefore God #71

    It has been proposed that one cause of victim blaming is the just world hypothesis.

    Good point. I think this is very common, even among people of good will, because to keep sane we’d rather believe things aren’t that bad.

    We could call it “The Just World Cognitive Bias”.

    Of course, the Just World Hypothesis/cognitive bias in this case is compounded by a tendency to believe people of greater status (men and “masculine” men) over people of lesser status (women and male victims). Which, of course, plays right into…the Just World hypothesis/cognitive bias.

  69. says

    One prominent douchemuffin has gone around saying “I checked and Rebecca’s room was on the first floor!!!” (In fact, in Ireland, as in the UK, the “first floor” is what Yanks call the second floor.)

    It’s the same way in France too. The ground floor is called the rez de chause or something like that and the second floor is the premier etage, which translates as first floor.

  70. says

    The Just World fallacy is probably only tangentially related at best. It doesn’t explain why only women are disbelieved, and mostly only for sex crimes.

    If there’s a connection there, it’s probably that those most predisposed to believe in a just world are the religious. Well, religion also spreads patriarchy, authoritarianism, and strict sexual mores. Follow those three far enough and the explanation fits all too well.

  71. Tony... therefore God says

    Stacy:

    Of course, the Just World Hypothesis/cognitive bias in this case is compounded by a tendency to believe people of greater status (men and “masculine” men) over people of lesser status (women and male victims). Which, of course, plays right into…the Just World hypothesis/cognitive bias.

    I wonder to what extent religious belief plays a role. There are many believers who think god is just, compassionate, loving, etc. There are many non believers who believe in karma. There are also those that think “everything works out in the end” (a phrase I’m sick to death of hearing; in the end, we all die), which implies a fairness to the world. Those three groups easily fit the JWH. I hesitate to blame religion completely (I have a tendency to lay a lot of the worlds problems at the foot of religion, and while that is certainly the case many times, religion is but one manifestation of wishful thinking), as one doesn’t need religion to believe the world is fair. The patriarchal nature of many religions combined with a sense that the world is inherently fair could lead a lot of people to believe we all get what we deserve.
    If more people come to see the world around us as being indifferent to our existence, would more people stop Victim Blaming?

  72. Tony... therefore God says

    kagerato:
    Any reason you referred to it as the “Just World” fallacy?
    I ask because I’m curious if JWH has been refuted conclusively.

    Well, religion also spreads patriarchy, authoritarianism, and strict sexual mores. Follow those three far enough and the explanation fits all too well.

    Patriarchy + authoritarianism + strict sexual mores + Just World = (among other things) victim blaming?

  73. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    kagerato:
    Any reason you referred to it as the “Just World” fallacy?
    I ask because I’m curious if JWH has been refuted conclusively.

    Are you seriously arguing that it’s up to us to “prove” that the world isn’t fair?

  74. Jurjen S. says

    Greta at #20:

    I am going to try to spell this out very, very clearly, and am going to attempt to be calm in doing so.

    Maybe you should have put that effort into reading my post a little more closely. I took pains to state explicitly that “I’m not denying that it does happen that reports of rape/sexual assault aren’t treated with the seriousness they deserve (to put it mildly),” and I’ll that I don’t deny that it’s a phenomenon that’s more or less restricted to rape alone, but that’s not the same as accepting that every single rape victim gets treated as a liar. At least, by the criminal justice system; that the defendant’s attorney will claim she (or in the Sandusky case, he) is lying is practically a given and can be dismissed with the classic Mandy Rice-Davis response “well, he would [say that], wouldn’t he?”

    And yes, I do understand the distinction between being told “it’s your word against his, so there’s really nothing we can do” on the one hand, and being told “I think you’re making it up” on the other. That is, I understand it rationally, but emotionally, the two didn’t feel all that different at the time: I walked into that police station practically spitting blood, gave a pretty decent description of the guy who hit me, including the make, color and license plate of his car, and being told that, without witnesses, my report was essentially worthless felt like being told I might as well have been making it up. Given that being punched in the face a couple of times is significantly less traumatic than being raped, I could imagine that being told “it’s your word against his” would feel a lot more like being told “you’re making it up” to a rape victim. So I’m wondering whether some–not all, not necessarily most, but some–instances which Ms Marcotte counts as cases of rape victims being called liars might in fact be instances of their being told their word, even with some circumstantial physical evidence, wasn’t enough to proceed on.

    And I might point out that I did have some circumstantial physical evidence on my side; given that I was practically spitting blood, it was immediately clear I had indeed been assaulted. As I said, sexual assault and rape are nigh on unique in all too often producing physical evidence that is also consistent with consensual sexual activity, and it strikes me that this is a more obvious explanation for the low conviction rates for sexual assault and rape than that “our culture starts from the assumption that women’s natural state is lying.”

    I’m honestly not trying to JAQ off here, or be “hyper-skeptical.” I just think a couple of Ms Marcotte’s implied claims–specifically that every single rape victim is accused of lying, and that this occurs because “our culture starts from the assumption that women’s natural state is lying”–require more evidence than provided in the OP. Is that really so unreasonable?

  75. Greta Christina says

    Maybe you should have put that effort into reading my post a little more closely. I took pains to state explicitly that “I’m not denying that it does happen that reports of rape/sexual assault aren’t treated with the seriousness they deserve (to put it mildly),” and I’ll that I don’t deny that it’s a phenomenon that’s more or less restricted to rape alone, but that’s not the same as accepting that every single rape victim gets treated as a liar.

    Jurjen S. @ #79: Please re-read what Marcotte wrote. She did not say that every single rape victim everywhere on the planet throughout history had been treated as a liar. She said that she has seen lots and lots of stories about sexual harassment and rape, and had personally never once seen the victim go without being called a liar. She didn’t say it never happened — she said she had never seen it.

    And that is extremely telling. I am aware of no other type of crime — except, of course, for domestic violence — for which this is true. I am not aware of any financial writers saying, “I’ve seen lots and lots of stories about embezzlement, and I’ve never once seen the victim go without being called a liar.” I am not aware of any automotive writers saying, “I’ve seen lots and lots of stories about car theft, and I’ve never once seen the victim go without being called a liar.” I am not aware of any arts writers saying, “I’ve seen lots and lots of stories about plagiarism, and I’ve never once seen the victim go without being called a liar.”

    This is a pattern. It doesn’t have to happen every single time to be a pattern. And, as Marcotte pointed out, it happens even in cases where the physical evidence is incontrovertible.

    Have you been reading the comment threads on this topic? Not just here, but elsewhere? Have you been reading report after report after report from women saying they were raped or sexually assaulted, and were treated as liars — by friends, by family, by colleagues, by police, by the public if the case was made public? There is no other crime I’m aware of for which this pattern is true. Except, again, for domestic violence. It doesn’t have to happen every single time to be an overwhelming pattern.

  76. Stacy says

    @Tony…therefore God

    Any reason you [kagerato] referred to it as the “Just World” fallacy?

    I’d forgotten the details when I mentioned it in my last post, but it is referred to variously as hypothesis, fallacy, and cognitive bias: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-world_hypothesis

    If more people come to see the world around us as being indifferent to our existence, would more people stop Victim Blaming?

    One would hope so. But part of the theory for the Just-world fallacy is that people feel threatened by the randomness of suffering and need to believe in a just world in order to maintain their equilibrium. So maybe not.

    That Wikipedia article is a good one; it specifically discusses rape (along with bullying and other forms of violence.)

  77. Jurjen S. says

    I read it a couple of times, actually. When Ms Marcotte says:

    I’ve been working the feminist beat for years now, and have seen lots and lots of stories about sexual harassment and rape. I have never once seen the victim go without being called a liar. Not once.

    and then follows it up later on with the assertion that:

    Our culture starts from the assumption that women’s natural state is lying.

    I don’t think I’m making a huge leap in concluding that, even though she may not literally say every rape victim is accused of being a liar, she’s strongly implying it.

    You want to know my background? I spent over three years working in the Office of The Prosecutor of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; the terms “Partizan sports hall” and “the Janković house” (both in the town of Foča) carry a particular odium for me. More than ten years after leaving that job, I remember the name of every rape victim whose statement I analyzed (for “who did what to whom, where, and when”) and neither I, nor any of my co-workers ever joked about rape, though–Ghu help us–we made nasty, nasty jokes about everything else. The notion that any of the victims might be lying never crossed our minds. During that same period, walking home from the bar on a Friday night, I saw five or six guys surrounding two girls, and when one of the girls started shouting, I ran for the nearest phone booth and called 112 (the European emergency number) to report that I feared a sexual assault might be in progress; there were two police cars on the scene before I’d finished walking back, and a third one arrived a minute or two later (note: Dutch cops operate two to a vehicle). After I immigrated to the US, I went back to college, and served on the community police review board for The Evergreen State College. While I was there, we had a rape on campus (the perp was most likely not a student) and the time elapsed between the victim calling it in and the one campus cop on duty being on the scene was less than two minutes. When my (then future) wife was the target of an attempted sexual assault at knifepoint (which she managed to fend off with good use of her wits and a pepper spray that was illegal for her to possess in California at the time), the police officer who took her statement took her quite seriously (allowing himself to let slip that “I don’t like guys like that”). In my own (admittedly vicarious) experience, police and prosecution acting cavalier about reports of sexual assault/rape are not the rule.

    That said, I acknowledge that the evidence is persuasive that it’s not the exception either. But you may note that, if we’re going to look at what Ms Marcotte did not say, she did not say by whom the victims got called liars. I’m actually quite prepared to believe that it’s entirely possible that, in every single case of sexual assault or rape that received some measure of publicity, somebody accused the victim of lying about it. As I stated previously, the defendant’s attorney(s) will, practically by definition (after all, when you state “my client didn’t do whatever he’s accused of” you’re in effect saying the accuser is lying). And given how many cultures are permeated with fucked-up attitudes about sex, due in no small part to religious “teachings,” I’m more than prepared to believe that some dipshit will assert that the victim was “asking for it” in some way because she’d had sex outside of wedlock at some point in the past or was dressed “provocatively” or some such bullshit.

    But then, there’s a certain amount of victim-blaming that is depressingly common, regardless of the crime. Anyone who’s ever heard or read a phrase like “what were you thinking, walking through/parking you car in that part of town after dark?” (or indeed, any phrase starting with “what were you thinking”) knows what I mean. I suspect a large part of that is that we want to reassure ourselves that such things won’t happen to us, because we’re smarter than the victims.

    I am not aware of any financial writers saying, “I’ve seen lots and lots of stories about embezzlement, and I’ve never once seen the victim go without being called a liar.” I am not aware of any automotive writers saying, “I’ve seen lots and lots of stories about car theft, and I’ve never once seen the victim go without being called a liar.”

    Maybe nobody’s written it, but that’s not to say it hasn’t happened, most likely immediately after the victims file a claim with their insurers.

    I am not aware of any arts writers saying, “I’ve seen lots and lots of stories about plagiarism, and I’ve never once seen the victim go without being called a liar.”

    Well, that takes me back to my earlier point about corroborating evidence. A victim of plagiarism can presumably point to his own previously published work and that of the alleged perpetrator, and leave onlookers to draw conclusions about similarities between the two while noting the lack of attribution.

    Theft gets to be tricky in that you’re claiming you no longer possess an item that you used to possess (be it an amount of money, a motor vehicle, or whatnot), in that you can’t prove you no longer have it, but at the very least, there is the expectation that if the alleged perpetrator is found to be in possession of your stuff, that corroborates your story. As I’ve noted previously, with sexual assault/rape, it’s unusual to find physical evidence that isn’t possibly consistent with consensual activity, particularly anything that can’t be found on the victim.

    The point I’m trying to get across her is that I don’t dispute the nature of Ms Marcotte’s claims, but I’m skeptical about the degree.

  78. says

    I don’t think I’m making a huge leap in concluding that, even though she may not literally say every rape victim is accused of being a liar, she’s strongly implying it.

    I don’t think it’s a huge leap that you don’t understand what the words ‘default assumption’ means.

    You want to know my background?

    Not even in the littlest bit. Frankly, I don’ believe for one measly second that you guys never managed to joke about rape, but I’ve dealt with prosecutors and law students who want to be prosecutors.

    But you may note that, if we’re going to look at what Ms Marcotte did not say, she did not say by whom the victims got called liars.

    Because it’s irrelevant. Oppressive culture is oppressive.

    Maybe nobody’s written it, but that’s not to say it hasn’t happened, most likely immediately after the victims file a claim with their insurers.

    I am not going to treat a hypothetical with the same force as verifiable reality.

    Well, that takes me back to my earlier point about corroborating evidence. A victim of plagiarism can presumably point to his own previously published work and that of the alleged perpetrator, and leave onlookers to draw conclusions about similarities between the two while noting the lack of attribution.

    In other words, it’s okay for those lying sluts to be treated as liars, even if you personally don’t do it.

    The point I’m trying to get across her is that I don’t dispute the nature of Ms Marcotte’s claims, but I’m skeptical about the degree.

    You are trying to inspire eye rolling, aren’t you?

  79. says

    @Jurjen S. in #82:

    The point I’m trying to get across her is that I don’t dispute the nature of Ms Marcotte’s claims, but I’m skeptical about the degree.

    You claim that you read the original post. Did you miss the bit where a jury still couldn’t make up its mind even though the whole thing was on video? I’d say we have good reasons to believe that the degree is pretty damn bad.

    I’m skeptical about the degree of your skepticism.

  80. says

    Any reason you referred to it as the “Just World” fallacy? I ask because I’m curious if JWH has been refuted conclusively.

    You’re asking why it’s a fallacy?

    This concept is used not merely as “the world is a good place” or “the world is more good than bad”. It’s used as “the world is perfectly just, all the time”. It’s an absolute, much like many religious premises.

    Once you understand that, you should see how it either (a) has already been falsified, or (b) is unfalsifiable to the true believers.

    If someone admits that the world is not perfectly just, then the whole house of cards falls apart. You can’t start blaming people in advance, without knowing the context, using the premise that “the world is usually good”. You would have to investigate. These people do not; they have established a priori judgement.

    It’s also very true, as I think someone mentioned already, that this mind set acts as a defense mechanism. It prevents people from having to actually involve themselves in other people’s problems, protecting them from any damage or attacks they might get for doing so. By design, these systems work as a insulator or cushion bubble from the rest of the world, isolating an individual in their own little microcosm.

  81. Greta Christina says

    I don’t think I’m making a huge leap in concluding that, even though she may not literally say every rape victim is accused of being a liar, she’s strongly implying it.

    Jurjen S. @ #82: In other words, you can’t argue with what she actually said, so you’re going to argue with a strawman version of what you think she meant.

    There is a tremendous amount of evidence strongly pointing to the conclusion that rape and sexual assault are treated differently in our culture than other crimes, and that victims of rape and sexual assault are treated with more suspicion and that their reports are taken less seriously: by friends, by family, by colleagues, by police, by the public if the case is made public. This evidence has been cited and linked throughout the Internet conversations on this subject. And this is true even when there is incontrovertible physical evidence of the crime. The fact that you are so stubbornly insistent on either defending or denying this that you have to make your argument against claims that aren’t being made… I’m trying to find a way to finish that sentence in a civil manner, and am failing. Stop taking the side of rape apology. It’s disgusting.

  82. Tony... therefore God says

    Askyroth:

    Are you seriously arguing that it’s up to us to “prove” that the world isn’t fair?

    No.
    I worded my question wrong. Looking back at the post, I can see where I went wrong. My apologies.
    In learning about the Just World Hypothesis (btw, I don’t think the world is fair or unfair; it just is), I had only seen it referred to as as Just World Hypothesis. I was unaware of it being referred to as a Fallacy. My question was based on not knowing that it has gone by different names.

    ~~

    kagerato:

    You’re asking why it’s a fallacy?

    No, but as I mentioned above, I see where I screwed up.

    ~~

    Stacy @81:

    I’d forgotten the details when I mentioned it in my last post, but it is referred to variously as hypothesis, fallacy, and cognitive bias:

    thank you.
    This was what I was trying to inquire about, but I failed to make that clear in my comment.

  83. Stacy says

    Jurjen S., thanks for working on the behalf of rape victims in the former Yugoslavia.

    I’m sure you were working in a context where the evidence of mass rape was overwhelming.

    What’s being discussed here is people’s reactions to all-too-common, comparatively random, non-wartime rapes. Different context and culture.

    ~~~

    @Tony…therefore God–You’re welcome!

  84. says

    Our culture starts from the assumption that women’s natural state is lying. How that obvious untruth got so ingrained is hard to really account for

    Possible contributory factors are the the ubiquity of lying to let suitors down easy for fear of provoking them, and the ubiquity of lying about sexual exploits for fear of being considered impure. Unattainable standards of purity induce people to lie. Especially if one has very strict abusive conservative parents, everything about about one’s love life has to be lied about and a pregnancy might be explained away as rape. The problem there is not in the person doing the lying, but in the social context that forces them to lie.

    Other possibly compelling motives for making a false rape accusation are blackmail or revenge. But the false accusations are a small minority. The median of the studies listed on wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_accusation_of_rape) is a 10% false accusation rate. Even if you pad that number and conservatively estimate that 80% of rape accusations are true, much more than 12%[1] of them should result in convictions.

    [1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/mar/19/myths-about-rape-conviction-rates

  85. says

    Our culture starts from the assumption that women’s natural state is lying. How that obvious untruth got so ingrained is hard to really account for

    Not at all – Christianity – Eve, the snake, the apple. It’s been baked right into European culture and from there exported to the New World. Eve portrayed as villain Adam as victim. It’s been downhill for women ever since.

  86. says

    I think this is one of those instances where people are talking at cross-purposes. People are hearing “rape victims want a different standard, they want people to be guilty until proven innocent.” No, rape victims are asking for the same standard, and they want the victim to be, at the very least, percived to be innocent until proven guilty.

    I have learned from my own rape, from talking to other survivors, that it is not unnusual in the least (hence, the entire point of this post) for a rape victim to be treated as a liar from the very beginning. In the rush to not declare anyone guilty until proven, you are explicitly calling the victim guilty, accusing her of lying (a crime, btw).

    A guy comes into the police station with a black eye, a sliced arm, says, “I’ve been mugged, my wallet was stolen.” The base assumption will be that he’s telling the truth. They will not ask if he gave the guy his wallet and then felt regret afterwards. They will not assume that his wounds are self-inflicted, or that they came from a good-natured wrestling match with a friend. They will start an investigation to find the mugger.

    Now, as the investigation progresses, maybe evidence is found that he was lying. Maybe physical evidence shows that the wounds were self-inflicted, for whatever reason. Maybe the police find his wallet safe at home. Maybe CCTV shows that there was no mugging at the location he described. Whatever. That’s what an investigation is for. But until that point, the victim will be given the benefit of the doubt, treated respectfully, and will probably get the support and sympathy of his friends and family.

    This, unfortunately, rarely happens for a rape victim. I don’t know what crazy world these MRA’s live in, where they think that every rape accusation is always believed, and every reported rapist is immediately ostracized and jailed. Maybe this happens on very rare occasions, and I give them the fact that racism plays a large part in these unfortunate events. BUT this is not what usually happens by any stretch of the immagination. And this is not what victim advocates and feminists want.

    I want an investigation. Please! Innocent until proven guilty is a marvelous concept. But I want the victim to be assumed innocent, as well, until good, solid evidence shows otherwise.

    I hope this makes sense. This is a hugely emotional issue for me (I’ve written about my own rape and the aftermath with the detectives here and here). I have a hard time thinking and communication rationally, when what I really want to do is break down and cry. I’ve never been to the world where rape victims are always believed and supported, but I’d sure like to visit sometime.

  87. says

    ‘Our culture starts from the assumption that women’s natural state is lying. How that obvious untruth got so ingrained is hard to really account for[.]‘

    First, proximal guess: Women are ‘owned’ by men. Therefore, any woman that makes any claim against any man must be lying, or (at best) deluded.

    That’s the only way I can understand the ‘blame the victim’ mentality. She was ‘asking’ for it! I never did anything she didn’t want me to do! She led me on, then tried to tell me no! I took her out to dinner, so she owes me!

    …All variants, I think, of the notion of women as chattel. Eliminate the idea that any human being has any ownership on any other human being, ever (and particularly that having a penis doesn’t mean you own a single goddamned thing), and some of this crap might disappear.

  88. valeriekeefe says

    I find this column uniquely ironic considering when Amanda was faced with a man who said that sex was initiated while he was sleeping and he did not consent, her reaction was to accuse him of lying to abuse his partner.

    That, to this feminist, is textbook rape apologia.

  89. tiberiusbeauregard says

    I know it’s late – but it has to be brought up:

    Google “meg lanker rape hoax”
    ^
    For the first time (I can remember), it has been proven what so many have only suspected before – a feminist activist, forging evidence to back up false claims of being harrassed, for the purpose of discrediting those who oppose her lunatic views. And she’s a repeat offender.

    So, would you kindly reconsider your opinion about those “hyper skeptics” who aren’t willing to jump on the shaming bandwagon all too quickly ?

    I know self reflection isn’t your strength, but it might be worth a try.

  90. Greta Christina says

    Google “meg lanker rape hoax”

    tiberiusbeauregard @ #94: Please point to the place in this post, or the place in any of my writings or Marcotte’s writings, where either of us said that false accusations of rape never happened.

    The point isn’t that they never happen. The point is that they are extremely rare — significantly rarer than with other sorts of crimes. And yet disbelieving someone making an accusation of rape is, for many people, the default position.

  91. says

    I don’t blame people who don’t report bc it is so, so hard to be called a liar by the people who are supposed to help you. The last time it happened to me I was literally bawling.

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  1. [...] from Amanda Marcotte on Greta Christina’s blog, which has been turned into a guest post: I have never once seen the victim go without being called a liar. And you know that old canard about women just being sensible and locking their bodies up because [...]

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