I’ve been struggling against myself. With the rise of countless victims, we have seen newly invigorated advocates pushing for justice. The Public has demanded that the perpetrators be locked up, fired, castrated. Isn’t this good? Isn’t this what we’ve wanted, what I’ve fought for?
It says nothing of the Black victims, of the boys or of the men, of those who are freely placed and trapped outside binaries and labels, yes – but it’s something deeper, too – more complex.
I am unsatisfied because my assault, because rape, because sexual injustice is not supposed to be special. It should not be an exemption or an easy call. Not unless murder is. Not unless theft is. Not unless drug possession is.
It would be ludicrous to believe a person stole without an investigation. It would be ludicrous to question the outfit of a murder victim. Yet, when we encounter the victim of a sexually-based offense, we trap ourselves in the black and white. We can either support them fully – without question, without doubt, with our anger, with our firings, or we can damn them – question their outfit, question their sobriety, question their every being. But we cannot give them the respect of a due process. We cannot ask questions, challenge the defendant, take ownership of the truth. We victimize the victims of assaults and rape a second time by not allowing them the authority over their own truth.
I’m not saying the legal system is a mode of equal access to truth. I’m not saying it’s an access to truth at all. But blindly believing victims because we pity them, or blindly discrediting their story because we’re uncomfortable, is not the same thing as supporting them. You do not support me when you believe me. You sure as hell don’t support me when you don’t believe me. But my giving me the authority and support necessary to claim my own truth, by weighing what I say objectively, by questioning the existing order of things with my new accusation, you do support me by allowing me access to the truth.
When I say we should not believe rape victims I mean part of what I say. We should not believe rape victims because it’s easy. We should not believe those who are assaulted because it’s uncomfortable. We should not believe the people who have been harassed because they might be telling the truth. We should believe them only because it is the right thing to do.