Different Standards

For some reason, society holds victims of one form of crime to completely different standards. Is this because of the form this crime takes? It would seem so.

Consider that no one would consider blaming a murder victim for getting murdered. No one passes on ‘mitigating circumstances’. No one asks what the victim did to deserve it. No one tries to absolve the guilty party of their simple responsibility to not murder. It is similar with cases of burglary and robbery. No one (well, no one reasonable) would suggest the victim deserved it, or invited it. Why then, with cases of rape and sexual abuse, is the victim treated like they are the guilty party?

‘They didn’t report it right away, so they’re probably lying’. This is a very common argument, but it overlooks numerous details. Victims of sexual abuse are often led to believe they deserved it, or that they were ‘leading their assailant on’. Even today, they are grilled as to what they drank, what they wore, and whether or not they did or said anything that might have given their attacker the wrong impression. Half the time, victims of sexual assault are not believed, for various reasons, which is why they don’t come forward. It would be a different matter if this were grievous bodily harm, or some other form of assault. No one would suggest the victim of that sort of crime was trying it on to make money, or to damage the reputation of someone else, so why do we see this narrative repeatedly come up where sexual violence is concerned?

In fact, in that one paragraph, I have inadvertently summed up pretty much all the primary arguments made to cast doubt on a victim’s word. Whether the assault is immediately reported, or whether there is a delay, the victim is often made to appear somehow responsible. This is rarely, if ever, the case with other forms of crime. Returning to the question of ‘why’, let’s look at who the victims of sexual assault usually are…

From this link, we have a number of statistics, and they are sadly not surprising…

An estimated 91% of victims of rape & sexual assault are female and 9% male. Nearly 99% of perpetrators are male.

From this link:

1 in 4 women in the UK have been subject to sexual assault since turning 16 (double the rate of male victims). 98% of people arrested for sexual assault are men.

The pattern is clear. Women are more likely to be victims of sexual violence, and men are more likely to be the perpetrators. This what the evidence shows, yet there are those who will flippantly quip ‘but women lie’, as though this erases any possibility that the evidence is correct. Yes, it is true that some cases of sexual assault are fabricated, but these make up a very small percentage of cases, so they are hardly the overriding narrative that the wilfully ignorant imagine them to be. Besides, if women lie, then it is worth noting that men lie too. Men will lie about committing sexual assaults, and other men will lie for them, to help conceal their crimes. Oddly enough, the peanut gallery is not interested in these details. I wonder why?

What does Justice Look Like?

If you murder someone, and for years you get away with it, only for your crime to be discovered 20 years later, what should happen? Should you plead for forgiveness, resign from your job, shed a few tears over your act, and expect that to be the end of it? If forgiveness is not granted by the victim’s loved ones, does make the victim’s loved ones somehow wrong? Is their grief a trivial element in all this?

If you steal from someone, and are only discovered years later, what should happen? You might have caused untold financial devastation upon someone, and in turn triggered all sorts of personal challenges. Is it then unfair if that person does not wish to forgive you? Does an apology erase all the hardship and pain you put someone else through, and render you somehow squared away, so to speak?

If you violently attack someone, and seriously injure them, leaving them unable to work for several months, causing them to lose their job, and then their home, but you evade being caught until years later, would justice be served by way of ‘sorry’? Does that provide enough recompense for all the suffering inflicted upon another human being (and let’s not forget, it’s rarely one person, the pain and consequences are often felt by friends and family of the victims too)?

Prudent people would know that justice is not served if there are no consequences – consequences that the guilty party does not get to choose by the way – for their crimes. It is not down to the defendant to determine what appropriate justice looks like. Murder, steal from, or assault someone, and the impact is enough to warrant actual, definitive justice, such as jail time. I don’t know of anyone would suggest anything different in these circumstances. Why is it then, that when the crime is sexual in nature, the attitude changes?

This brings me back to a prior post of mine, Judgement and Justice. The case of Pastor Morris is pertinent to all of the above. There are some who simultaneously bleat that Mr Morris has done enough by admitting guilt and saying sorry, and that his resignation should satisfy all parties, whilst in the same breath, suggesting Mr Morris’ guilt is not proven by any reasonable means. Leaving aside this absurd contradictory stance, is a tearful apology from Mr Morris enough to cover off years of trauma? Is it down to the attacker to determine whether or not the victim has overcome what happened?

Of course not. No reasonable, rational person would never expect such a policy. As a child, Ms Clemishire was not able to comprehend what Mr Morris was doing to her, and once she was able to, her pursuit of justice at the time was blocked. Even Mr Morris’ wife protected him, going as far (perhaps out of denial) as to blame Ms Clemishire. Ms Clemishire was shamed into silence, and suffered in silence for years, yet somehow, cold-hearted individuals who speak of justice seek to protect her abuser, even now. They speak of impartial, dispassionate applications of Biblical standards, yet they do not apply even that. They apply doubt to the victim’s words (even after Mr Morris’ confession). They suggest that Mr Morris should face no further consequences of his actions. They somehow believe Mr Morris – with a net worth of $117 million – is the victim in all of this, and that he has been horribly inconvenienced.

Mind you, the people who dogmatically defend people like Mr Morris incorrectly hold to the belief that a woman cannot be trusted. Despite countless examples of men getting away with sexual assault, it is apparently women who predominantly get believed. There is no basis for this conclusion, yet this is in fact one more demonstration of how women are not believed. It is an insidious strategy, designed to paint victims of rape and abuse as deceivers. This is part of the reason why rapes go unreported. Women (and for that matter, men who are also victims of rape) expect to be disbelieved. After all, the message they hear is ‘you’re lying’, so they question whether a case is worth reporting at all.

Some people talk of ‘taking God’s side’, yet to these people, it seems distrusting anything the victim has to say is the default position. In taking up this position, they are contributing to the narrative that victims – especially women – are only reporting abuse for some form of benefit. In telling victims to ‘get over it’, they also contribute to the reasons why people do not report abuse for years, via a callous disregard for what happened.

Here’s an idea. Proceed under presumption of innocence, for both parties. Do not treat them differently. Do not assume the victim is greedy, or out to hurt someone’s reputation, or somehow deserved what happened. It is not a difficult concept to grasp.

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