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“the common-sense guide to being a survivors’ advocate” from Inside The Crimelab

January 11, 2011

Article from Jess over at Inside The Crimelab. Originally posted here.

1. If there’s a story in the news about rape charges or a survivor brings a story to you, don’t dismiss that story. Listen. Don’t assume automatically that the charges are false or could be false. The chances of it being false are extremely low. Don’t make excuses for the person who is being charged or the person you’re being told the story about. In other words, stop couching your opinions in rape-apologist language. This is one of the many factors that contribute toward survivors not speaking up – a cultural atmosphere in which we are, in so many cases, automatically dismissed.

2. If a survivor comes to you with a story and would like advice as to how to proceed, let the survivor direct the course of action (as long as that course of action isn’t dangerous to anyone). Remember that there are survivors’ organizations and crisis centers in your area that can help and have the resources to do more than you can alone; that’s always my first suggestion. Those organizations will also in many cases help the survivor through criminal, legal and medical filing if that’s what the survivor chooses to do.

3. Donate your time and/or money to a worthwhile organization that supports survivors’ services in your area. There are local and national shelters, hotlines, and other nonprofit organizations that are always in need of your energy.

4. If the person being accused of assault is an artist or musician (or producer of goods, so on and so forth), step back and question why you’re supporting this person’s work, if you are. There are enough artists and musicians out there that you’re not losing anything significant by not focusing on, supporting or choosing not to associate yourself with that person’s work. If that person is a member of your community, help figure out community strategies to deal with the resultant issues. Keep in mind that safety within the community comes first.

5. Take the time to educate yourself. Start here:
Yes Means Yes
Rape Victim Advocates
Support New York
Men Can Stop Rape

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 12, 2011 9:03 pm

    100% support 2, 3 and 5.

    On 4, I can agree with perhaps questioning your support of someones goods or services made by someone who is convicted of any sort of crime involving sexual violence. However, shouldn’t we as a society treat the accused as innocent until proven guilty?

    On 1, our society absolutely has to do a better job being supportive of survivors of rape and enabling them to come forward and seek justice. Nobody should dismiss charges of rape, but nobody should be jumping to conclusions that the accused is guilty either. Yes, the number of rape accusations that are false is low. Why does the number matter? It is wrong for one person to falsely accuse another person of sexual violence. It is wrong for 100 people to falsely accuse another person of sexual violence. It is wrong for 10,000 people to falsely accuse another person of sexual violence. And just because one demands that we treat the accused as innocent until proven guilty, it does not make one a “rape apologist” nor does it mean that the person is saying that the woman is a liar. Our society can both demand that the accused be treated as innocent until proven guilty while giving the woman the support she needs to come forward and submit all the necessary evidence so the state can prove its case.

    In a perfect world, nobody would make a false accusation of rape. Of course, in a perfect world nobody would be raped either.

    For a very short period of time as a teenager, I was at risk of being charged falsely with sexual assault. Fortunately, the story given was so obviously flawed that the state never pursued charges against me. But that didn’t stop the fear of what might happen to me if she was able to get away with her lie and cause me to go to jail for something I did not do. And while I do not blame all women for what she did, and while I do accept that most women who do say that they are raped are being honest about it, the fact that men are falsely accused should not just be brushed off as a statistical anomaly.

  2. February 2, 2011 7:14 pm

    Daniel Z left the exact same comment on Jessica’s blog, and she already responded to him there. Since she wrote this piece, and since I think she did a great job, I’m going to let her respond:


    I mention the statistical likelihood of false accusations as a counterpoint to the rhetoric espoused by the men’s rights movement and other people who put forth the argument that false rape accusations are exceedingly common as a means to completely dismiss completely legitimate and real situations. (See a good deal of the discourse around the recent Assange charges for that kind of speech.) Yes, false accusations happen (I am very sorry that that happened to you). Yes, they are damaging to everyone involved and to the stories of real survivors trying to make our voices heard. Do they happen as often as many people say they do? No, they don’t.

    My point in 1) and 4) that you are talking about is simply that someone coming forward with a report of sexual assault should not be immediately dismissed or doubted, a point with which I believe you agree. Support for emotional distress is the first concern, period.

    There are a good number of studies and books out there about the ways in which the judicial mechanism fails in certain circumstances, particularly in sexual assault cases. Many people are dubious of even entering their complaints into that system because of the way that it can be weighted against survivors.

    Here’s an op/ed piece that goes deeper into that issue:

    “Innocent until proven guilty” is a wonderful idea, but it doesn’t work out as well in practice as we would like. “

  3. February 2, 2011 7:34 pm

    I responded over there as well, just if anyone wants to read the whole conversation.

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