This Was Not Always The Case
As a young man, I was afraid of being accused of rape. It was actually my #1 fear throughout college. “What would I do? My life would be ruined!” “It must really suck for the guys this happens to.” I probably should have prefaced by saying, I used to be a fucking idiot. I still am, but I’m aiming to be a little less so.
It’s sad to accept that I used to be on the unjustifiably wrong end of an important issue such as sexual assault. I knew rape was horrible, wrong, and I knew that I could/would never rape anyone. I thought somehow that even by not raping, I could end up one of those sad sacks that got accused of raping. I believe this is what they refer to as an irrational fear. My deep rooted fear of being accused blinded me to the fact that I was indeed complicit in a dangerous rape culture. It allowed me to give credence to those mind numbing questions, “Was she drinking? Is there proof?” I believed that if I was ever accused, I would need someone to ask that question on my behalf. There would surely be a reason a woman would accuse me! Me. Me. Me.” See? Idiot.
As I think back to that mindset I get nauseous. How could I make myself the centerpiece of something that directly affects millions of people every day? How could I be blind to the real damage that was affecting those I interact with everyday? How could I, a decently educated person, think this way? I believe they refer to that as the male ego.
But why was I afraid of being accused? Did I have some deep mistrust of women? Did I believe that women are out there constantly accusing men of rape? Where did this fear come from? Maybe I didn’t want to believe that this horrendous and unforgivable thing happens in a world in which I live. Maybe I didn’t want to believe that it happens to my friends or that a friend of mine could be a predator. Maybe telling myself that women are falsely accusing men, is easier than accepting the true reality:
One out of six women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. You know someone who has been sexually assaulted. Of that one out of six, the percentage for false reporting is between 2–5%. You more than likely don’t know someone who has falsely accused someone of rape.
People will take issue with the title of this being “I believe women 100% of the time”. Of course, nothing is 100% but titling this “I believe women 95–98% of the time” just didn’t have the same punch.
At 30, I’ve had many relationships with women as friends and girlfriends. It’s infuriating to think of how many of these women I consider friends, have stories of being drugged or being touched while passed out or just plain being overpowered and raped. And while the stories from my friends are countless, I can only think of one who actually reported her assault to the police. One woman out of fifty. You know what came from her report to the police? If you guessed nothing, you’re on the right track…but still wrong. It was actually worse than nothing. She had to live the horrifying experience all over again. This time while being interrupted by an investigator who asked how many times she said no. “How did you say no. Do you think he heard you say no? How many drinks did you have?” Not only did my friend have this trauma happen to her, she was made to feel that somehow, maybe it WAS her fault by the authority that is supposed to be her ally. For those of you who guessed nothing earlier, that part of the story starts now. My friend waited and waited as an “investigation” took place. Ultimately, she was told that there was insufficient evidence to make a “legitimate case”.
It’s all too common for a victim to be asked things like “Well if you were raped, why didn’t she you go to the police?” At face value, the question itself is harmless. Beyond face value though, this question lacks understanding and compassion. Victims who report abuse, rarely receive justice. In fact, just 6 out of 1,000 rapists will end up in prison. For those of you terrible at math, just know that that’s way below Shaq’s career free throw shooting percentage. Even Brock Turner, who actually was convicted, is only serving 6 months. AND THERE WERE MULTIPLE WITNESSES. Many survivors believe that the police can not or will not do anything to help. Why relive the trauma if nothing will come of it? Survivors also feel a sense of shame and guilt and don’t want their family or friends to know that they’ve been assaulted. My friend had her trauma redefined and distorted and was unable to start her grieving process until many years later.
I am deeply disturbed that it took me probably until the age of 24 before I even questioned how I thought about this subject. I’d be lying if I said this had nothing to do with entitlement. I know I can blame society for this but that does nothing to help. Ultimately, we have to take responsibility for the way we think. It’s our responsibility to question our biases and face our fears. This is the only way we can change how we think and feel. It starts with us teaching ourselves the difference between consent and entitlement.
I know that I have a lot of work to do in order to fully understand this issue.I believe most of what I can do as a male is listen. I may want to speak and ask questions, but I need to listen. I can listen to the people who have actually gone through these things. I can set my fear aside and realize that this issue isn’t about me. And although it isn’t about me, I cannot sit idly by while my friends are in a fight to put an end to a sickening rape culture. I can listen and understand. It is my sincerest hope that all people who aren’t victims can do the same.