Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Megan Wright has so many stories about violence against women today that all of them have been combined into one blog post. They are all horrific, but one in particular had a comment on a linked-blog I found particularly true. It is the case of Megan Wright, a girl who was allegedly raped by three men in a dorm room and later committed suicide in the aftermath. The detective in charge of the investigation did not look very far into the accusation, and decided that because the boys held up a sign to the surveillance cameras stating "I WANT TO HAVE SEX" and signed by Megan that she had given consent. Now, maybe Megan wrote the sign, and maybe she didn't. Maybe she signed it, and maybe she didn't. However, I can't help but feel that if even one of the three boys felt in the middle of all the sex that there was the possibility there may be a rape accusation in the morning, then maybe it wasn't so consensual. That the sign could have been written under some form of coercion. Another possibility is that the boys were engaging in an act of "slut shaming" -ie, making this girl feel badly for giving it up at all (though that still reeks of coercion to me); either way, this isn't exactly behavior that screams innocence to me.

And that brings me to this insightful comment:
"It is such a myth that women wake up and decided [sic] rape is a better alternative to shame. Considering how much more her name has been sloughed through the mud, and how awful her treatment was, that seems evidence that this young woman made a very hard decision to come forward with rape charges."
That is an apt observation. Yes, there are cases to the contrary. Yes, there will always be women who falsely accuse men of rape. Yes there was that Duke rape case. Yes, that will be brought up by rape apologists, rapists, mainstream America, and Men's Rights Activists when rapes are reported for the foreseeable future. But even if women's rights groups have a depressed figure in their 2% of false rape accusations (and I think they probably do), the FBI's 1996 study puts the figure only at 8%. I'm more for using that figure than ones given by women's rights groups or MRAs because the FBI has less of an agenda than either side. And yet, almost every single woman who comes forward saying she has been raped gets hit with the insinuation that she is falsely accusing the man involved. It has replaced the panty defense in the rape apology arsenal.

I happen to agree with the quote; no sane woman would report a rape to reduce the shame of having sex -mostly because as soon as most women do they are accused of making it up. In most cases, consensual sex is not a publicly known event. There are cases in which it is; pictures, video tapes, a roommate happens to be present. But often, the only people who know if sex went down that night are the people who engaged in sex. If a rape is reported and investigated and brought to trial, the circumstances of the rape become known to more than just the two people involved. Parents, friends, jurors, and the people in the courtroom now all know -and on top of that, the normal defense is that the sex was consensual, that the girl wanted it, and that she is a liar and a scarlet woman for bringing false charges before the court.

Secondly, there is less shame around sexual involvement now. There is still shame, don't get me wrong, and often it is gender-based. Jessica Valenti's book She's a Slut, He's a Stud says so in the very title. But there is a degree of sexual freedom now available to women that has never before in modern history been present. And because of that, there is less of a "she's dirty, she's worthless, she's the cow who gave away the milk for free". Women's worth is still tied, in part, to her sexuality; but it is getting better.

Which leads me to this point: those who slut shame, those we insinuate the women are accusing men of rape because they are embarrassed or feel dirty after they have had sex are part of the problem because they further inculcate that idea into the minds of society; the idea that women shouldn't have sex, that women shouldn't like sex, and that women should be ashamed to have it and thus when they do immediately have to cry rape. The media, these MRAs, and so on are part of the problem because they reinforce gender and societal stereotypes. 

And those stereotypes hurt women like Megan Wright, and they hurt other women who have been raped and who are strong enough to bring that charge forward. I hate those women who do falsely accuse men of rape, because they make it that much harder for women who have been victimized to be taken seriously. But we have to all do our part to take these accusations seriously, to really examine them without jumping to conclusions about how she slept with the whole swim team or how he obviously did it because he's a thug/has an earring/privileged rich white boy/etc. Because this is too important an accusation to be playing around with. Lives, the ones of the people accused and the lives of the accuser, depend that we investigate these claims thoroughly, seriously, and without prejudice. Megan Wright deserved that; the Duke Lacrosse players deserved that; and countless other victims deserve it too.

No comments: