Another celebrity has been acquitted of sexual assault charges because the female complainants did not hold up in court as credible witnesses. I was neither a witness to the alleged occurrences, nor present for the court proceedings, and therefore, cannot comment on whether or not justice was indeed served. On a personal level, however; I have to confess that I am deeply troubled by the case.
I am reminded of a younger me, fifteen, returning to my sister’s apartment after a night of repeated sexual assaults and confinement at the hands of male twice my age. Still trembling from the shock and terror (I wasn’t sure whether I’d live or die at the end of it) I was met by members of the police force, who took my statement, acknowledged that they knew the perpetrator, admitted this was his typical m.o., and advised me that the case would not stand up in court as I had been drinking under age and was wearing provocative clothing – ie., the standard bell-bottom jeans and halter top of the era. They put me on a bus for home, and told my parents that I had spent the night with a man. Unable to speak up for myself in face of the wrath that followed, I buried the trauma for many years.
Perhaps that’s why I never said anything when my first boss, a few months later, locked me in the storage room of the department store where I was working part-time and made sexual advances.
Nor did I speak up when my eleventh grade math teacher followed me to a bar one night, and cornered me, saying that I owed him for all the classes I had skipped and he hadn’t reported.
At twenty, working my first corporate job, I cried myself to sleep night after night after enduring endless sexual harassment on the job. Only one of three women in the department, and the youngest, the males would parade past my desk every morning, saying they were “just looking for high beams” or “wondering if I got my plumbing checked last night.” When, after six months of enduring this behaviour, I was told during a job evaluation that I would only qualify for a raise if I “put out”, I did take it to a higher ranked manager, only to be told that I should reconsider the offer. I updated my resume and moved on.
I didn’t report it when a co-worker of my husband’s called me with obscene messages, indicating he was stalking me.
I didn’t report it, when in an attempt to better my education, I went back to university, and was stalked and harassed by one of my professors.
I didn’t report it, when a spurned lover turned suddenly ugly.
I had learned that being a woman means that I am always in a position of vulnerability, and therefore, it is somehow my fault if another human being shows me disrespect. I have learned that women blaming men for sexually inappropriate behaviour are examined first for personal propriety before being taken seriously, and I know that none of us are faultless when scrutinized under a microscope.
When this recent case first went public, something amazing happened – women started to speak up. Thousands of women, just like me, revealed countless incidents that they had never reported. It felt empowering.
Every time a woman stands up against sexual assault, I applaud. I have hope.
I do not want my children, or my children’s children to have to suffer the humiliation and condemnation that my generation of women have known.
This case ended in a an acquittal, and I hope that has not dampened spirits.
Let’s not lose the momentum sisters! If we are ever going to end injustice, we need a voice.
2 thoughts on “Silence Is Not The Answer”
Thank you so much for your comment and a reminder that there are so many elements involved (and genders) when a crime occurs. The case that sparked this post has ignited a negative response from many victims, and perhaps, more importantly, highlighted the imperfection of our justice system.
I recently watched a program about false confessions and the number of innocent people who are jailed because of them. In the UK they have discontinued the practices used in the US and Canada to elicit a confession, recognizing that they are faulty. In a similar way, I believe that the way we try sexual assaults also needs to change.
It is so important that we all have a voice when addressing inequalities. Thank you for being a male voice in the throngs. I am aware that assaults against males tend to go unreported, and you are right, this too needs to come out in the open if we are ever to change the nature of human interactions/respect.
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im not familiar with the case either, and im never happy when a man may have assaulted a woman because (apart from the obvious problems with that,) it will ultimately be used in some narrative against men in general, somewhere down the line. (thats not how i read your blog post, where you share a difficult personal experience you had.)
in my firmest opinion, no victim should ever go unheard. as a man, i also note that acquittal means nothing in the court of public opinion. to be accused is to be found guilty, only in some cases you get judicial punishment instead of just the “consolation prize” punishment of a ruined reputation.
for what its worth, men who are abused tend to get laughed at and never find justice at all. i may be criticized if i dont consider this a gender issue: everyone should care about everyone, and there are always more victims being silenced. i would like to see a human network of people that care about this, grow out of such tragedies.
unfortunately, support networks are much more likely to grow out of the assumption that one group represents victims and the other group represents attackers. in a case where someone is acquitted, who do i feel for? the person who may be a victim of an attack? or the person who was possibly wrongly accused? both could have had their lives changed forever. both scenarios occasionally lead to suicide: the victim attacked, or the wrongly accused.
its true that as a society we used to more frequently look down on the victim, and blame them for getting attacked. im definitely glad we are turning that around, however slowly. the justice system will always produce 4 kinds of people; on the plus side: avenged victims and vindicated scapegoats… and alternatively: criminals that go free, and innocents that are punished anyway. the sheer randomness of justice is one tragedy in response to another. if he is actually guilty, this is tragic; if he is actually innocent, this is still tragic. and i agree that we (humans) need less silence and more support.