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  • Sat, 23, May, 2020 - 5:00:AM

There’s just no winning for sexual assault survivors

Growing up, I understood the world in a black and white context. Things were right and wrong. Police officers were the goodest, most law-abiding citizens. Whatever they said went. People in prisons deserved to be there. Racism was a crazy concept that the dumb folks of the past believed in. It had since been eradicated.

People wanted nothing but the best for victims of sexual assault.

As I’ve grown older, the black and white brush strokes of my childhood have been peeled back to reveal some dissatisfying shades of grey.

As it turns out, police officers are as flawed and fallible as the system they exist within. Incarceration is an overzealous and racist institution. Racism informs almost every aspect of our world. And sexual assault survivors are almost always failed by a system that does not endeavour to protect them.

Of course, none of those statements do justice to the deeply complex issues they describe. Nuance is impossible to ‘sum up’ (as much as the internet wants to squash it into tweet-sized morsels). I’m still learning (and unlearning) about these topics every day. 

Lately, I’ve been learning a whole lot about sexual assault. In particular, I’ve been learning about what happens to ‘inconvenient’  accusers.

When the #MeToo movement broke the Harvey Weinstein dam, I celebrated. As accuser after accuser came forward, I thought: this is undeniable. But I worried about the precedent it set. I worried that the public would only believe victims in the cases where there were multiple accusers. Like Bill Cosby before him, Weinstein was accused by over a dozen women. Even more damning: their stories lined up.

Almost every alleged abuser that took heat during the #MeToo movement was accused by more than one person; from Kevin Spacey to Louis C.K., to Michael Jackson. I worried that pattern was becoming an expected aspect of the sexual assault vocabulary.

What about the person who assaulted one victim, once?

Then Dr. Blasey Ford alleged she was assaulted by then-U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. And she was alone.

In the absence of a pattern, much was made of the doctor’s credibility. She was an academic woman. A professional. And (this is important) her accusation tarred a Republican.

While the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up organisation are ostensibly non-partisan, they are, by and large, founded and operated by liberal folks. Which is fine. But it begs the obvious question – what happens when a liberal is accused?

These questions appear to be gaining quick answers in the form of one Tara Reade.

Reade has accused the presumed Democratic Presidential Nominee, Joseph Biden, of an incident of sexual assault, which she alleges took place in 1993. You can listen to some of the details here.

Whether or not her claims are true cannot be answered definitively by the likes of me. But they do, in my mind, meet reasonable standards of credibility.

Reade indeed worked for the then-Senator in 1993. Neighbours and friends have corroborated the info. There's even an apparent Larry King Live phone call, allegedly made by Reade's mother, insisting that her daughter was having a problem with a prominent Senator.

But Reade is a working-class woman.

Unable to refute the corroborating evidence Reade has presented, her detractors have instead trawled through her life. With seemingly no good reason to do so, journalists have interviewed Reade's former landlords. Old blog-posts praising Vladimir Putin (apparently sarcastically) have been screengrabbed and shared. She's been accused of wild inconsistencies. She's been called a Russian agent.

All by so-called liberals.

To be clear, claims of inconsistency betray a brutal lack of understanding of the realities of sexual assault. The idea that survivors have a clear pathway forward is illogical. Sexual assault is messy, the aftermath even more so. 

“My endgame" Reade claims in this interview with Megyn Kelly, "is telling my story in a dignified way […] I want people to know: don’t be ashamed if you’re poor, don’t be ashamed if your life is messy."

Tara Reade (who is adamantly anti-Trump) hasn’t asked for anything other than to be believed. She hasn’t even asked people not to vote for Joe Biden. But she’s still inconvenient.  

.

I was radicalised by the Roast Busters incident of 2013 – in many different ways.

When a former acquaintance of mine referred to the victims in a despicable, degrading way (one that I refuse to publish), I severed the friendship instantly. And I learned a sharp lesson about sexual assault. I learned that certain types of people receive sympathy, while others don’t. I learned that those distinctions often fall along class lines. 

I realised the way we deal with victims is inadequate. And the road toward justice is hell.

It hardly even works for 'privilege class' victims. 

Brett Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court. The majority of the men who went down during #MeToo remain free. Even Harvey Weinstein, accused by over 80 women, was only convicted on two charges.

When the case isn’t so ‘easy’ (for instance; when the alleged victim is of a lower social status) – the road to justice (if we can call it that) can seem hardly worth it.

The world is messy. Victims aren't perfect and patterns aren't absolute. We need to get a hell of a lot better at wading through the grey.

TAGGED IN

  • Sexual Assault /
  • Survivors /
  • Violence /
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Abigail
Johnson

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