[TRIGGER WARNING: RAPE, RAPE CULTURE, HOSTILITY TO SURVIVORS]
Melissa McEwan of Shakesville has been a powerful influence on me in terms of my feminism. Her writing is incredibly passionate and unapologetic, which I obviously love. She has an ability to take what were once only vague feelings in myself, or feelings that I didn't think could be justified, and articulate them in a way that makes so much sense and that validates everything I felt about the subject.
One of those things is believing survivors. So many people will automatically doubt survivor stories. Any time there's one tiny thing that's inconsistent with the strict perfect survivor narrative that our society seems to say is the only valid one, people turn on the victim. Seeing this happen in the past would awaken a visceral horror in me that I couldn't really understand and definitely couldn't put words to. On the one hand, it seemed so looooooogical (TM) to question survivors, to be a "skeptic" (ugh), to want to doubt and examine every bit of evidence and then inevitably come to the conclusion that there's just not enough evidence because it's a "he said she said" situation and surely we can't really believe the survivor unless we have five different videos from five different angles of the entire interaction starting with the very first contact between them and lasting through the entire assault and probably a couple days after, too.
Fuck all of that shit. I believe survivors. I believe them as quickly and unconditionally as so many other people doubt them. For all the reasons listed in this piece:
The Costs of Disbelief
I mean the cost of communicating to other survivors, when we publicly disbelieve one person, that they will be disbelieved. That there is no point to reporting the crimes done to them, because they will not find justice. And may instead find in its place an aggressive avalanche of hostility and suspicion and contempt.
I mean the cost of empowering predators, who are grateful indeed to everyone who participates in the systemic disbelief of survivors. Even if their victims report the abuse they perpetuate, their chances of being charged and convicted are vanishingly small, because of our cultural investment in disbelief.
I mean the cost of failing to stop predators, a majority of whom attack again and again. I mean the cost of creating more victims.
Please read the whole thing.
You know who doesn't believe survivors? You know who these skeptics are? Mostly men and white women who are not survivors and who have never been through an intense trauma, and therefore cannot have any idea what it's like to have your brain throwing out defense mechanisms and twisting your perception of what happened to the point of altering memory, up to and including repressing it altogether, in a desperate attempt to keep you from losing it. These "skeptics" worship "logic" without knowing that there is no logic after being raped. None.
You know who believes survivors? Other survivors. Because they get it. They get how the trauma causes you to do and say things that don't make sense to others, and they get how awful it feels when people don't believe you, when they comb over the worst thing that's ever happened to you and examine it like an autopsy, dissecting it like it's a dead animal, only to inevitably conclude that there's not enough evidence to stop the person who raped you from going out and assaulting more people.
You know why I believe survivors? Because I know them. Because I listen to them. Because I've read so many stories and they're all unique but they're all the same. There's such a clear pattern to these assaults that when I read that a person accusing another of rape acted strangely or their story is inconsistent, it only reinforces my belief. And I'm not going to think that all of these survivors are lying, because if you really wanted the majority of people to believe you, your story would be consistent with that perfect expected narrative. You'd go right to the police, crying and completely distraught, then to the hospital, then you'd spend weeks in your room utterly despondent and unable to function or be near other people. Your story would be perfectly intact and there would be no inconsistencies because it's easy to keep rehearsed lies consistent when you're actually totally fine.
But I haven't seen a single survivor story like that. Not one. Because it doesn't work that way.
And even if I did see one that fit the expected narrative, I still wouldn't express doubt because even if she is lying, the costs of disbelieving a real survivor are too great. And the idea that being accused of rape ruins men's lives is a myth. And stop comparing having a hard time getting a job or having to move to another town with being raped.
Call me illogical or unfair all you want, I don't give a fuck. I'm not a Vulcan and I'm not a human embodiment of a court of law. I'm a person who knows and listens to survivors. Why aren't you?