2018: Rape Culture is Alive and Well
From Betsy Devos, to microaggressions on the train, to a 17 year old being blamed for her assault because of what she was wearing. This post has it all and then some.
This weekend started with me feeling like crap on Friday night. Why was I feeling like crap...again? Betsy Devos just released her new rules on how to enforce Title IX and WOW did she out do herself. I’ve written about this before, as this has been in the works for some time, and even had an article about this published.
Victims under these rules are mandated to be cross examined, the definition of sexual assault has been narrowed, and the new rules seem to function under the assumption that the victim is lying and that the accused needs special protections. Title IX would now only be in effect for assaults that took place on campus. This part of the new rules was my greatest fear surrounding what changes would be made.
I was raped off campus and though my case did not have a positive outcome, I cannot imagine if I had had no options because of where my assault took place. I do not want to imagine a world in which rapists are allowed to continue to make school unbearable for their victims, simply because they committed their assault off campus, where 86% of college students live. So, that was my Friday.
On Saturday afternoon, my boyfriend and I decided to do a bit of Christmas shopping, as we had a pretty good coupon to a place we wanted to check out. We took the train to this store and the ride on the train was... eventful.
Pretty much as soon as we got on, I became aware of the VERY loud conversation the man and woman were having behind us.
Woman (W): So how was camp?
My thoughts (MT): Oh this guy must work at a summer camp. How fun!
Man (M): I actually really enjoyed it.
MT: Of course you enjoyed it. Camp is awesome!
W: Did you interact with a lot of women or were you mostly with guys?
MT: Hmmmm is it a boys only camp? Maybe they have a sister camp?
M: No. I hardly interacted with any females.
MT: Whoah. It’s pretty gross when a guy refers to women as “females”
W: Oh, why was that?
M: It’s just all separate. Our bunks and everything we do. Some of our training was together, but not a lot of it.
MT: Now I get it. Camp. Military training.
M: Yeah we were told that we had to walk at least 5 meters behind all females because so many of them make up rape stories just to get off the island. They just can’t handle training and will do anything to get out of it.
W: Oh, yeah.
That was the the woman’s only response. She didn’t sound upset or disturbed. Her tone sounded like she agreed with him and that what he was saying made sense! She was a “female” turning on other "females"! I could even imagine her nodding her head. She didn’t press for more information. They just continued talking. To her, rape culture is so ingrained into life that she didn’t question that these women were liars and just blindly believed the disturbing lie we’ve been fed.
As I sat on the train, I felt my heart in my throat and I wanted to cry. I thought about saying something, but what? I didn’t want an altercation and who knew when they would be getting off. I was trapped with this misogynistic man with his disgusting views and there was no way out.
My boyfriend looked at me and gave me his hand and this helped tremendously. But I just kept replaying what the man said over and over again in my head. Did he really believe that these women were lying? Did he have a friend who had been accused? Had he been accused? How and when and why was this myth started? Did all the men he trained with believe it? Did the women?
Between 20-48% of woman in the military are sexually assaulted and more female veterans have PTSD from rape than from combat. As I have said before and as I will continue to say until the day that people get it, only about 4% of rape accusations are false. The same percent for other felonies. Men are more likely to be raped then to be falsely accused of rape.
The man and woman got off at the next stop and I tried to not let the conversation bother me, but it did. So many things seem to be happening and it's hard to tune it out and I don't think I want to.
Because this is where we are.
A few weeks ago, a 27 year old rapist in Ireland was acquitted because his 17 year victim was wearing a lace thong. The thong was put into evidence and shown to the jury as proof of her consent. This is what is happening in 2018. Kavanaugh was confirmed in 2018 after we swore to not repeat what happened to Anita Hill in 1991.
In 2001, Lindsay Armstrong was just 17 when she committed suicide after her underwear was used as evidence of consent in her trial against her rapist. 17 years later and this tactic still works. If you guessed the lawyer was a woman, you’d be correct. Elizabeth O’Connell, a woman, in 2018, used a 17 year old girl’s underwear as evidence of consent.
I’ve surrounded myself with friends who are allies. I follow so many incredible groups and people and I educate myself about gains that are being made in this fight, that I sometimes forget that it is still a fight. That so many people still believe victims are liars. That people think women pretend to be raped for some sort of gain. It astounds me when women turn on women. That Betsy Devos and the the woman on the train can actually believe that women are liars. That a female lawyer can vilify a young victim.
Rape culture is alive and well, but we can stop this. I don’t want to look back in 5 or 10 or 50 years and see that nothing has changed. I don’t want to have to hear men on the train talk about women as liars.
Just this summer, a doctor was sentenced to probation, but no jail time after he sexually assaulted a sedated patient. The victim was cross examined and pressured into “admitting" her instagram photos were “sexy.” She posted "sexy" photos and somehow that provides consent? And yup, the defense lawyer was a woman, Lisa Andrews.
This does not have to continue. We need to start believing and supporting each other. Regardless of gender. We need to teach children about consent and teach it to them young. Ask them if it is ok to hug, take pictures of them, and even to hold their hand. If they say no, no means no. Your actions towards children matter and it teaches them at a young age about consent and boundaries.
Betsy Devos’ rules are not put into effect yet, we have a 60 day comment period. The public can let her know that we value the lives and rights of victims.
Change and outrage is happening, but it’s agonizingly slow. It was amazing to see so many women around the world post pictures of their underwear with #ThisIsNotConsent and to see so many male allies share their own disgust. There are a lot of good people, but it can be hard to see the good when the bad can lead to suicide and exile (Dr. Ford still cannot return to her job or home and continues to receive death threats).
If you know a survivor in your own life, check in on them. The climate these past few months has been brutal and it may get worse before it gets better.
Thank you for reading,
P.S. If you are interested, my book Liar Laurie, is now available for pre-order. It is about my rape in college and how I was able to recover. Thank you for any and all support.