[Content Note]: sexual assault, rape
This weekend, I was looking forward a date with a sweet, dorky guy who loved animals, video games and travelling. I couldn’t wait to try sushi for the first time. While I was fumbling around with my chopsticks, he launched into a story showing a terrible view of women and sexual assault issues that is still pervasive in our culture. He told me that a girl, who he described as “really weird, and into furry kink stuff” had accused someone she had dated, who he knew from his dorm, of sexual assault, and that “he didn’t seem like the kind of guy to do something like that.”
Just minutes before, I had been laughing at a funny story he told me about the time he volunteered at a Halloween haunted house for kids; now I saw him in a totally different light, and I was angry and uncomfortable. I had no idea what to say. Finally, I replied, “I’m not cool with you talking about it like that. Whether she was into kink or not has nothing to do with it, and anybody could be a perpetrator. It could be someone who seems totally normal, even a friend or a boyfriend.”
I wish I had been able to articulate myself better. I was completely caught off guard, and it triggered me to hear him talk that way – or that he even brought up the topic at all, when I wasn’t prepared for something like that on a first date. I have been sexually assaulted before, and sometimes the perpetrator was someone I considered a good friend or even someone I was dating – more often than not, someone I trusted. According to R.A.I.N.N (the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), 73% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone who the victim knows. Perpetrators don’t just skulk around in long, dark coats, waiting in bushes and alleyways. They are can be ordinary looking people who act seemingly normal. They might commit a sexual crime and then fly under the radar because “He couldn’t have done something like that, he plays football!” or “He seems really nice, though.”
There is also a myth out there that women accuse men of rape or sexual assault out of regret, or to get attention or revenge. However, women are much more likely to suffer an assault and not report it than to make up a false report. Only about 2-8% of rape reports are false. Even then, there are some situations in which victims change their report to ‘false’ because they are crushed under the psychological pressure, or they are pressured into it by the police. Victims of sexual assault need to be taken seriously. Skepticism makes it even harder for them to find justice as well as support for what they’re going through. The lack of respect for survivors’ experiences is a sign of the rape culture problem we have in America, and that needs to change.