Devil in the Harbour – reader rebuttal

Contrarian reader Joyce Rankin reacts to Contrarian’s caution that justice will not be served by presuming a hearsay accusation of sexual assault to be true in every detail. I don’t usually print reader responses at this length, but in the interests of fairness I will do so in this case without edits.

Please, please, please don’t be one of those men who keep doubting that a rape took place. Every woman knows that there are many many rapes that are never reported because the victim knows exactly what kind of a shitstorm she will letting herself in for and decides not to report. Decides that the trauma and hurt of being raped is bad enough, and she doesn’t want the trauma and hurt of being insulted and be-littled and her private life examined in public. I’ve read that the incidence of false reports is something on the lines of 2%, and that’s including the grey area of women raped by their partners.

The Groveland case is not something I know much about, but for you to say that it’s doubtful a rape took place because the woman was a “bad egg” –how 1950s of you! I think it more likely that the woman was raped by someone either close to her, or someone in a position of power, and .she had to come up with a story to account for things. Knowing that an accusation against the true perpetrator would not be believed (maybe because he was a white man with influence, and she was a young woman with none), she blamed it on those young men more vulnerable than herself. Otherwise it’d be HER OWN FAULT, because we all know women aren’t supposed to let it happen to them, and if it does, they must have done something to cause it.

And exactly what made her a “bad egg”? Had she actually had sex before? been known to take a drink? I guess that meant that she was “asking for it!” Because we all know that no men, young or old, has ever had sex, taken a few drinks, or gone out of the house after dark.

So does that mean that if you were with a group of work/classmates and you were all having a few drinks, that they decided they wanted to have sex with you and you didn’t want to, and they said, “well, you came to the party, what else did you expect?”, they raped you, does that mean that it would be your fault? That you should have known better than to go there, or that by having a drink you might expect something to happen?

In the Cole Harbour case, it seems the existance of photos show that the rape did indeed happen. The fact that some of the perpetrators bragged about it, and spread the photos around, shows just how ingrained this rape culture is. The boys expected the victim not to say anything, because they knew that she knew that their word would carry more weight, and that their possible futures would be considered worth more than hers. That they had the upper hand. Again.

You can doubt that a rape took place, if you want to delude yourself. But I ask you: why is the occurrance of rape held to a higher standard of proof? If I called the police and they came to my house and my door was standing open, the lock was broken, items were missing, my computer was gone, and the house was torn apart, they (and my neighbours) would assume that I’d been burglarized. If I called and the police came and found that there was a person lying in the street dead, with injuries that could not be self-inflicted, they (and passers-by) would assume that a killing had taken place. But if a woman calls the police and she’s been beaten and had forcible sex, they ask her about her sexual history, and everyone starts trying to find reasons why it was her fault -the way she was dressed, she was out at night, she had a drink…….. If the burglar breaks into your house, no one tells you it is your own fault for owning nice things.

It is true that we should not assume guilt in a court of law, but I think if the boys were bragging about it, then we are pretty sure it happened. The question is, why did the police take so long to do anything?

I was going to say, please don’t conflate these two stories, but on second thought maybe you can. Because the common thread is that many people don’t believe a woman who says she’s been raped, and the questions always come down to the victim’s conduct, rather than the rapist’s.

Because many sexual assault victims do not report the crimes, and because the nature of sexual assault is such that testimony often comes down to he-said-she-said disputes that cause genuine victims to be disbelieved, some feminists have come to the position that all such allegations must be believed; to doubt them is to abet rape culture.

I understand how they reach that point, but I believe they are wrong to do so. Such blanket assumptions will inevitably lead to wrongful convictions.