From time to time, a story in the news opens up the opportunity to talk about sexual issues in our larger society. In the past, I’ve commented on other news stories involved sex: Forget Josh Duggar: What Ashley Madison’s Client Base Reveals about Husbands; How Parents Can Use This Election to Talk to Their Kids about Sex; Abuse in the Church.
In the past couple of weeks, the accusation made by Christine Blasey Ford that United States Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her during their high school years has been a focus of news, commentary, and conversation. If you have paid attention, you’ve heard a variety of opinions about what should happen next.
I’m not going to add to that conversation, because I personally don’t know what’s true at this point. I don’t feel like I have sufficient evidence to make a determination of what happened or didn’t happen back then.
But that brings me to the question I want to ask today: What should be our response to sexual assault or harassment allegations?
Again, I’m not talking about Kavanaugh/Ford, because I’ll let others work that one out. But this situation gives us a nudge to talking about the issue as a whole. How should we treat such accusations?
Take accusations seriously.
Too often in our past, we, as a society, have been too reluctant to believe accusations, to act on evidence, to support the victim. Whether you personally understand it or not, it can be very difficult for victims of sexual abuse, assault, and harassment to speak up, point the finger, and follow through with pursuing justice.
Most accusations are true. A 2010 analysis of various studies concluded that only 5.9% of rape reports were false. FBI statistics give a rate of 5% false allegations. That means that over 9 times out of 10, when someone says they were raped, that’s exactly what happened. And that doesn’t account for all the sexual assaults that don’t get reported!
Our tendency, therefore, should be to believe an accuser — that is, take the allegation seriously. By taking the attitude that a person will be listened to with an open mind and a charge fully investigated, we encourage victims to come forward, name their assailant, and receive justice and closure. We also cut down on future assaults by weeding out attackers among us.
Refrain from extraneous insults.
What was she wearing? Was she drinking? Had she gone back to his place willingly? Was she “asking for it”? I’m utterly horrified that these are questions that have been asked when a genuine victim of a sexual crime has come forward and told her story! I don’t care if the woman was previously table-dancing naked; if she was raped, she was raped.
We can advise people how to avoid risky situations, but leaving my front door unlocked or even wide open is not an invitation to steal everything inside my home. So let’s not attack the victim for being dressed or behaving in a way that might have been sexually appealing but was not an invitation to be harassed or assaulted.
Likewise, let’s not hurl insults of any and all kinds against the accused without sufficient information. Before we go calling someone a rapist, a liar, and the utter filth of the earth, let’s try to figure out if the event really happened. If you’re not in a court, your opinion doesn’t necessarily have to be “without a reasonable doubt,” but it should pass some standard of knowledge. I wouldn’t call someone a murderer unless I had good reason to believe they pulled the trigger.
Let’s remember there are actual people involved in this situation. Let’s focus on finding out the truth and then determine what justice should be meted out. And extraneous insults don’t help us get at the truth.
Recognize false accusations happen.
Remember the FBI statistics about the likelihood of an accusation being true? It’s still disturbing that, when it comes to rape allegations, 4,400 and 5,100 cases each year were determined to be untrue. And the false report rate for rape was five times higher than for most other offenses. Again, it’s still around 95% likely that a rape occurred, but that 5% of falsehoods affect real people.
The Bible tells us the story of Joseph, sold into slavery in Egypt and working at the home of Potiphar, a royal official. Potiphar’s wife wanted Joseph to sleep with her, and when he refused, she falsely accused Joseph of sexual assault.
One day [Joseph] went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.
When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”
She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”
When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.Genesis 39:11-20
Without any investigation, defense, or due process, an innocent man was sent to prison. Scripture is clear that this was an injustice against Joseph, as it would be against anyone accused of a horrendous crime they did not commit.
As much as we want to hold the guilty responsible, we also don’t want to convict the innocent. We have a responsibility to do our best to figure out whether something really did or didn’t happen.
Seek out the truth.
The biggest challenge we often have with harassment/assault allegations is “he said, she said” — meaning no external witnesses can confirm or discredit an accusation.
The Old Testament law established this general standard for determining guilt: “One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (Deuteronomy 19:15). Yet three chapters later appears instructions about rape, including this one:
But if out in the country a man happens to meet a young woman pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. Do nothing to the woman; she has committed no sin deserving death. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders a neighbor, for the man found the young woman out in the country, and though the betrothed woman screamed, there was no one to rescue her.Deuteronomy 22:25-27
How on earth would a woman alone in the countryside with a rapist have a second witness? She wouldn’t. And yet the Bible clearly states that her attacker should die for his crime against her. Somehow, the Israelites were expected to investigate a claim through other means, judge its veracity, and dole out justice. Perhaps the second “witness” in such cases was corroborating evidence. Similar allegations, physical evidence, or simultaneous reports are all considered in determining the truth of someone’s claim.
When a charge is made, let’s take the accusation seriously, knowing the vast majority of accusations are true; let’s refrain from getting into extraneous stuff that doesn’t illuminate the truth; let’s remember false allegations do get made, and let’s seek truth.
Maybe charges against someone you like are true. Maybe charges made by someone you like aren’t true. We have to be willing to set aside our earthly ideologies and care about what God cares about — truth and justice. If we cannot do that, we are not treating out citizenship in Christ with the honor it deserves. And consequently, not treating others the way we should.
81 thoughts on “How Should We Treat Sexual Assault and Harassment Allegations?”
False accusations do indeed happen; one happened to me.
When I was teaching, a female research temp was moved into the office next to mine. As I could not go to or from my own office without passing hers (mine was in the corner of an office suite), I made it a point to be courteous, to say ‘Good morning’, ‘Good evening’, or to comment on the weather (in West Texas, always a topic).
I never entered her office, nor was closer to her than ten feet.
And I was accused of harassment; I had to make a public apology, and it was entered into my record.
Certainly this changed me; I took to treating all, male and female, with a non-discriminatory disdain, leaving no doubt that if any one of them collapsed at the coffee machine, I would nonchalantly step over their twitching body to refill my cup.
I also made sure that I was never alone with a woman, even in an elevator. I’d take the stairs.
It was simply safer; another ‘offense’ and I would have been fired.
Nearly the same happened to me. I offered to share my office with the daycare leader. She moved into my office and about took it over. I decided that I needed to talk to her about my space. She said she felt that I was harrassing her. I picked up my stuff that night, moved out, and never spoke to her again.
Andrew, I am so sorry that that happened to you. I’ve often wondered if the me-too movement would actually set women back instead of treating them fairly. Personally, I don’t believe that women want equality. That means women will get drafted, also, and I know very few women that would like to sign up for that. I remember years ago my husband telling me about a co-worker who cut her hair. I knew this co-worker from social functions that we had gone to. He said it looked really nice and I asked him if he told her. He said are you kidding me? There is no way that I would ever give a compliment to somebody at work because it could be taken the wrong way. I imagine that if a man and a woman are up for a promotion, the powers-that-be will think twice about who they pick for said promotion.. I am sure I have an unpopular opinion as a woman, but I had a college friend accused of rape. He was as innocent as could be, and she came forth and admitted lying about the entire story. It was too late. It it already damaged his reputation for those who were unsure
My apologies for mixing all those thoughts together. Just wanted to let you know I understand how you feel.
I also have a patient whose daughter is up for tenure at a popular University. She has been passed over for the past couple of years, and the answer that the friend gives me is it’s because of the “white supremacist males” at said university. I think that being a white male in this country now is almost some sort of “crime.”
We have raised strong daughters that know that they should report anything that happens immediately. I would do the same. My daughters are more sympathetic saying “we don’t know what kind of background the person comes from, or what they’ve been told or taught.” While I get that, I know I have done my part and teaching them that they are to be brutally honest at all times and immediately forthright if necessary.
Catherine, thank you so much for the support, and for sharing your experiences.
It was a very hard thing for me; I was not given a chance for rebuttal, and no one was remotely interested in anything I had to say. In the climate of the time I could understand, and forgive, but my name was ever-tainted, and retiring into a cold contempt for all around me (though I hated it) was the only way through (and to be fair, my department chair backed me on this, said it was what he would have advised, and would have done).
Sometimes being friendly or polite to someone who wants to be left alone would be considered harassment. Sometimes not saying anything would come across as stand offish.
Truth is, people tend to get the wrong vibe more and more. What to do? Should I be nice or avoid even looking at people? Maybe the teacher you were being courteous toward had been assaulted in the past.
Because women experience sexual assault, they will usually place a mental protective wall surrounding themselves, so they don’t make themselves vulnerable.
I had a sister-in-law that got all dolled up and then later confessed to me about getting friendly looks from guys that she wasn’t attracted to. In other words she was getting unwanted attention, even though those guys didn’t make a play on her and backed off when they figured out that she wasn’t interested in them. To some that would be considered harassment.
And because assault is real, and after reading what happen to you, it confirms my belief that realistically we need to consider that any woman we come in contact with, may have been sexually assaulted or harassed and to be very careful to say as little as possible avoid making as little eye contact as possible, unless spoken to first.
What a way to live, but maybe its for the best.
Mark, yeah…in the end I figured that they – women AND men – could just go hang. I had my brothers, from when I worked as a military contractor, and I really didn’t need more friends.
If they had issues, it wasn’t my problem, and I overcame ‘Christian caring’ right quick.
Well, “Christian caring” can be about caring for the truth!
J, it can, but I was told that harassment was in the eye of the ‘beholder’; saying ‘hello’ to someone who didn’t care for you (or who didn’t like men) was an offense, and that there was no appeal to the verdict.
Hence, I learned not to care, and to keep myself remote.
I agree that “harassment” needs to be better defined. If it’s just in the eye of the beholder, then a paranoid person can nail someone to the wall for something completely innocuous! But then, some people can act like they’re not harassing when they clearly are (as in reasonable people would agree it’s harassment, even if the harasser says otherwise). These are questions our shifting society needs to address.
Christian Caring about the truth is essential.
What is bothersome to me is evidently the consequences of rape isn’t severe enough, as it continues to go on.
I don’t know how much forcible assault actually occurs, but it is higher than what is being reported. I understand this so I find myself being a bit of a reclusive as I never want to be misunderstood.
Maybe those that have suffered forcible assault is 10%, or 25% maybe 50% or higher. I have to think along those lines with every woman I partially know or don’t know at all, in order to be caring and then consider the last thing they want to do is talk to any man.
With exception to those that are close, I’m choosing to be emotion neutral, not too friendly, even a compliment could be mis-interpretted, but being emotion neutral by appearance makes me look rude, which I guess I am.
The definition I’ve heard for sexual harassment is “unwanted sexual advances”, which is the most arbitrary and poorly defined term for something that is supposed to be serious. How can anyone know if something is unwanted in the other person’s mind?
I was accused of sexual assault by a female high student of mine. Turned out that she was sneaking off campus to be with her boyfriend and he was the perpetrator. But I was investigated, and if she had stuck to her story, I would have been fired and lost my teaching license, totally washed up at age 35.
What helped defuse the whole thing was the fact that I had been scrupulous in my behavior to my students, so her story came unraveled pretty quickly. But I was changed. I became suspicious of my students, and where I had been personally caring for them before, it made me hold them at arms length. I probably encountered what most regard as a student’s “cry for help” but didn’t listen because I had been burned.
What concerns me now is that because so many people don’t realize that there are lines that shouldn’t be crossed, safety hedges if you will, then we are all shocked that some people do cross lines further in beyond the hedges. Many perpetrators of sexual harassment, abuse, or assault, never learned early on they need to be responsible and respectful. Even such old-fashioned advice as “gentlemen don’t behave like that.”
It’s sad because while I know plenty of harrassment goes on, the timing of all these are suspect in my opinion. I would hate to be a upstanding man this day and age and try to pursue a woman. I dont know if he is guilty or not but I feel the #metoo has gone way to far. I am a woman and have experienced harrassment a couple of times but I still think common sense has flown out the window.
I don’t consider it harassment unless it,is blatantly rude and aggressive or I made it clear that they knock,it,off, but they continue.
When I was in college a young man became quite friendly towards me. Then, he slept with my friend and started off and on dating her. When I questioned his advances towards me, he looked shocked and said he was just trying to be my friend. A shoulder massage was considered just being friends, but to me it was indicating something more intimate. But, this was my naive point of view in a world where sex isn’t even considered grounds for a relationship.
My husband was friendly towards a young lady who entered our social circle. He was just trying to make her feel welcome, but she enjoyed the attention and developed a huge crush on him and tried to get him alone numerous times. Hubby didn’t even realize until I pointed it out and soon after she asked him to bed. He RAN from her! She was harassing him, knowing he is married, but it was so subtle that hubby never noticed until almost too late.
Immature women seem to interpret any sort of male friendliness as his interest in her the same way immature men interpret a woman’s sexy apparel as her wanting sex or sexual attention.
I say all that to agree that harassment definitions are vague. And so much is left to interpretation and misinterpretation.
I am honestly scared for my boys and intend to keep them out of public school because girls going crazy and making stuff up is RAMPANT there.
My daughter has graduated from the public school system. I have a son that is a junior in high school. This isn’t something that has been ever mentioned to me by son. I’m curious what you mean by girls going crazy and making stuff is rampant in the public schools? As opposed to what? A religious school?
I went through the Catholic school system. Many things were wonderful about it. But there was always an undercurrent of females are less than running through my education. I’m no longer a practicing Catholic and I see this attitude isn’t necessarily unique to Catholicism.
We wore uniforms that were “modest” because “we might lead the boys on” and “we were too stupid to choose clothes that were appropriate anyway”. During the eighth grade a few boys were inappropriately touching a few girls. They snapped their bra straps. They twisted their nipples.
I’m not sure what was the most appropriate way to handle the situation was. A priest and a nun lectured our class about the incident. I can remember exactly where my desk was in the room and where the classroom was in th building and who I sat next to. As an aside I loved most of the nuns that I came across in my education but not this one.
During the lecture I had a hard time putting my feelings into words but I knew what we were being told was not right. We were being told that girls were leading boys on etc., etc. What the boys did was not right but the girls should conduct themselves in a way to make it less likely to occur. I didn’t understand what they were saying…we were wearing our “modest” school uniforms. I didn’t see the girls as having done anything to encourage what had happened to them.
And whether what is was intended or not, the lecture was a way to shut down any girls from bringing up similar concerns in the future.
I can see our country can’t decide where the pendulum should swing. I sure wouldn’t want the same thing that happened to my classmates years ago to happen though.
KDB, I’m actually very curious what that priest and nun said the girls were doing to “lead boys on”. It certainly sounds like the boys needed to be lectured and punished from your account. I will say that I’ve definitely seen girls acting flirtatious and in a way that could make boys think it would be ok to act in such a way, even if it’s not. You don’t have to wear a short skirt and a tube top to act sexual.
On a side note, I’m all for uniforms in school and especially for girls since most of them want to expose as much flesh as possible. This was true when I went to school and I bet nothing has changed. It also keeps boys from sagging thier pants and other gross fads.
As far as I know, social interactions used to be much more strongly controlled. I recall attending a lecture by Barbara Kay, a columnist for the National Post, who said a man could only approach a woman he didn’t know if she made eye contact with him. Otherwise, he couldn’t approach.
The lack of rules and the elasticity of the definition of harassment is really dreadful.
As far as determining guilt or innocence. We have to acknowledge the role media plays in situations like Kavanaugh’s. It’s an awfully “juicy” story line for a media outlet, too much so for them to pass up. All too often the court of “public opinion” tries an individual and assigns “guilt”.long before either guilt or innocence can be established.
A stronger “burden of proof” ought to applyin these situations to protect the privacy of all parties involved. Some things the public doesn’t need to know until much later in the process. There is too much at stake and great discernment must be excersized.
Something to ponder . . .
J, this was well written, fair, biblically supported, and I agree with every one of your conclusions. I would like to just say a word about false rape statistics because it’s something I’ve looked into for a while. The numbers are deceiving, and most experts that don’t have an agenda will tell you that no one knows how many rape accusations are false, but that the 5% number is probably the absolute floor.
The issue is how police departments categorize false rape reports. It varies from department to department, but most of the time a report of rape will only be categorized as “false” if the alleged victim admits that she was lying or there was such overwhelming evidence that it was false that it was dismissed outright, such as the victim accusing someone who wasn’t even in the country at the time of the alleged attack. Most reports that are unclear or that go to trial at all are not considered “false” even if the alleged perpetrator is acquitted with very strong evidence that the accuser was lying.
Now, rape trials do not have a high conviction rate, for obvious reasons. In most cases it is one witness, the accuser, versus one witness, the accused. Each of them has a different story and it’s hard to tell who is lying. This is why the prosecution and defense both try to attack the character of the opposing side. I’m sure that in some cases a guilty person does get off, but in many cases I’m sure he was truly innocent. The truth is that no one can know, but none of those acquittals are counted in the false rape statistics.
The truth is that it doesn’t matter if 99% of accusations are false or 99% are true. If we make assumptions either way then then we are robbing victims of justice they deserve. And make no mistake, someone wrongly accused of a rape is a victim just as much as an actual rape victim.
I agree with a lot of what you say, excepting the last sentence: “And make no mistake, someone wrongly accused of a rape is a victim just as much as an actual rape victim.” The vast majority of the time, being raped tops being accused of rape.
I did look at several studies and only mentioned FBI stats and a meta-study which analyzed several other studies, but the numbers on false accusations do vary. What’s also important to remember is how many sexual assaults are not reported. I would hope we can change that. I haven’t been through that experience, so I cannot say that I understand how it feels, but I often wish more victims would get angry and demand justice.
Sorry, gonna disagree there. Not to diminish the pain that rape causes, but a false rape accusation can put a man on the sexual offenders list and make him virtually unhire-able for all but the most menial jobs.
Don’t you mean a conviction rather than an accusation. I know two men who were involved in a high profile rape case. In a plea deal it was arranged they would plead guilty to assault(not sexual assualt).
They are not on the sexual offenders registry.
Yes, you are correct. But even an accusation without a conviction can have disastrous effects on someone’s life. Used to be you could move to another state, start over. Now, everyone’s history is a Google search away. A good pastor friend of mine was falsely accused of having an affair. The accuser took to social media to smear his name, had some of her friends do the same. He lost his job over it – didn’t matter that he was completely innocent. He was *presumed* to be guilty, and that was all that was needed for the community’s opinion to turn on him.
If you Google his name today, the accuser’s posts are at the top of the search results – there to see for any future employer. He has no recourse short of suing the individual – which he can’t do because he has no job, therefore no money (and honestly, he’s a nice guy to a fault and wants to put the whole thing behind him)
I might comment that even though/if the public is taking rape cases more seriously and encouraging women to speak out, these crimes still aren’t being taken seriously enough. As J point out the penalty in the OT for rape was death, whereas today, IF the woman is believed and the man is convicted, he gets the proverbial slap on the wrist in the form of a few years in prison while the woman’s life is destroyed. Shouldn’t we take rape as seriously as God takes it?
I also agree with Catherine in that “women’s lib” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If we are “equal” to men in ways we weren’t before, then we’re no longer under their protection either. There was a time (or so I’m told) that a rapist was in danger of being murdered in prison, much like child-molesters are today because certain things simply aren’t done. How often now do these men spend their sentences high-fiveing it with the other guys over their conquests, or onlookers regard the whole situation as funny? “Frigid b**ch needed to loosen up anyway.” Or, “She should have shown some respect.” I realize that the vast majority of men do not say or feel these things; it just seems to me that an unintended consequence of “equality” is no longer being regarded as creatures worthy of protection.
So there’s a story in my family history that I don’t know whether it’s true or not, but presumably a female ancestor was seduced or pressured into sex before marriage and became pregnant, and the men of her family hunted down the guy and killed him. And no one in the law came callin’ for that posse. I’m not suggesting vigilante justice, so don’t misread me, y’all! But it is interesting how seriously those men took their duty to protect a female relative.
I would have commended Boaz for nixing any ideas on the part of on his male employees about Ruth, as she had no male relative to defend her. There were likely many siblings in that field, and each young man would have known that if they touched somebody’s sister, her brother would have rounded up his father, brothers, uncles, and cousins to beat the living pulp out of him. But Ruth had only Naomi.
It still baffles me however that neither Jacob nor David took the rape of their daughter seriously enough to do anything about it, leaving the situation open for their sons to insert their own versions of justice. Maybe these accounts are there to provide bad examples of fatherhood, even in men who were otherwise godly – ?
What’s the problem with vigilante justice? It tends to work, pour l’encouragement les autres.
Um…where should I start? 😉
I think I spent too much time in a very different paradigm…
J, I don’t blame you for thinking that way. I think if you were really dig in and research the effects on victims of false rape accusations you might change your mind. I don’t think that topic (victims of false accusations) fits into your ministry but I’ll willing to bet you’d be surprised by what you find.
My pre-teen son has already been falsely accused by a preschooler. She told her mom that he told her to take off her undies, which he did not. Thank God the mom got the story straight eventually because it was downright scary for a while. Even so, I no longer allow him alone with girls of any age, even though he is fantastic with children and would make a great babysitter in a couple of years when he is old enough. I don’t ever want to face another false accusation with him.
It happens all the time. Girls do it to attention-seek, to be vengeful, for unknown crazy reasons, to mimic the rampant pornified culture they see, or even as innocently as maybe overhearing mommy and daddy getting kinky and repeating something, but replacing daddy with a favorite friend…like what happened to my son.
Oh my goodness! How sad.
Such a difficult topic! One guiding principle that I am trying to follow (esp on social media!) is that if it doesn’t concern me, and I don’t have the facts, don’t comment! For example, I can comment GENERALLY about rape accusations, without needing to weigh in on a specific one. I think in this day and age, people are all too keen to get involved in things that have NOTHING to do with them! And via the internet and social media, it is so much easier to forget about the real people involved (including families).
I did find it interesting that you left out the first part of how the OT deals with accusations of rape…that if it happens in the city, the woman also is sentenced to death, because she didn’t cry out to be rescued during the rape. Which I suppose could be seen as stopping false accusations after the fact (like a woman who ‘changed her mind’ after sex and then accused someone of rape).
(Btw, you’ve referenced it Genesis 22:25, not Deuteronomy 22:25).
It seems to me that sexual crimes have always been very problematic to deal with!
Ack, thanks for correcting my reference! I’ll fix it. And I didn’t include all the relevant parts of Deuteronomy 22 primarily due to space considerations. I try not to write dissertations, just blog posts. 🙂
Yeah, I get it! Waaaaaay too much to dissect in Deuteronomy, especially when trying to apply to modern society!
And then, to make matters worse for myself, I thought about the ‘he who is without sin cast the first stone’ story from the gospel of John (thinking it might somehow apply to the Deuteronomy passage)and I wanted to read more about that…so I googled it, only to find a heap of articles arguing about whether that story is even canon or not, as it was not found in the early manuscripts. Argh!
I try not to ‘cherry pick’ particular verses without seeing how they work with scripture as a whole – my overarching principle is to ‘love God, and love others’, and try to follow the passage in Micah re ‘act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God’. I think that as long as we are in constant prayer and relationship with God, the Holy Spirit will help us work out the right thing to do in specific situations. All that is of course easier said than done, though!
As a PS…the whole environment has become poisoned to the point where Sen. Hirono of Hawaii said that ‘men should do the right thing, for once.’
For once? Wow.
If that comment was designed to elicit a wheedling mea culpa, it sort of backfired.
I’ve treated women with respect, and have (see above) been pilloried for it. Asking me to take on the collective guilt of Harvey Weinstein and Bill CLinton is really a bit much.
Instead of making a feeble ally, Sen. Hirono would make me an enemy, and if my health were restored and I’d be back in the working world, I would not trust a female colleague or student an inch.
It’s not that I don’t believe that most reports of sexual harassment or abuse are true – I do. But when due process is replaced by the Napoleonic Code, I’m out. I don’t need the potential aggro, and I would not need female collegiality at work.
It may not be a popular point of view, but I really don’t dig martyrdom.
Some responses to previous comments. I do not see how the draft and #metoo are at all related. I have a son who will be of draft age soon and a daughter that is in college. Whether females should have to take part in the draft is an absolutely different discussion.
As far as assaults that don’t go reported, I’d bet all of us know someone who has been affected by this issue, but has never told her story and never will. Maybe it was your great grandmother, or maybe it was one of your coworkers. I say this in part based on my experiences working as a nurse for many years.
As far as saying that women make false accusations all the time, I really don’t see that to be true. Years ago I sat with a friend during a difficult time who believed that she had been drugged and possibly raped. She told me that if something happened like she would become pregnant that she would have to committ suicide because she knew that her parents would not be at all accepting and she would not be able to live with their reaction. My take is that many women of a certain age believed reporting their rape years ago would be a no win situation. Honestly the same is true today.
I’ve informally “studied” rape since I was in college about 30 years ago, when a high profile athlete was accused of rape and the resulting reaction of the community. It was okay that he raped because he was a good football player, was th reaction of many people. It turned out that this guy had broken another female student’s nose prior to the rape. That was reported and the police filed no report.
From where I sit a woman(or a man) has little to gain by reporting a rape. Your name can be leaked to the press. The legal system can bungle your case. In the case of Ms. Ford, you can have death threats made against you and your family.
My son was involved in some unfortunate behavior over the summer(nothing that involved women). We have told him on more than one occasion to be choosy about who he hangs around with, and how having something on his “permanent record” can affect the rest of his life. For him in the short term it would be not being able to participate in sports. Kavanaugh and his Mark Judge have multiple unsavory comments in their yearbooks. Mark Judge wrote a book in which he refers to a character named Bart O’Kavanaugh as a chronic drunk. If anything this is a lesson for my son to avoid the would be Brett Kavanaughs and Mark Judges of the world.
I still don’t know for sure what happened back then with these people, so I tried to comment on the larger issue. And in that, I agree with you that the vast majority of assault claims are true, and many go unreported.
For those who believe that this is an attack on men, by the way, from what I’ve seen, sexual abuse against men may have higher percentages of not being reported, which is also awful. I don’t see this as a gender issue, but an assailant versus a victim. And in that, we should all be on the side of learning the truth.
You are correct that it affects both men and women. I was raised Catholic. I know everyone is familar with the abuse scandal and knows that this was in part about sexual abuse against boys. While abuse by clergy is not limited to the Catholic Church it is such a large organization so it is what we hear about most. The young men who were victims did not feel they would be heard just like these young women.
For what its worth one of the cases in our diocese was from the 1940s. There was evidence to show that a mother had brought her concerns to the diocese. Even though she had brought her concerns to the diocese, nothing had happened. I think about this case and wonder if more women had been allowed in the power structure of the Catholic Church if we would have been able to resolve these problems faster. But what did a woman know, even if it was her own son who was being abused.
We’ve also had a history of dismissing children’s claims, perhaps because children also engage in make-believe and fanciful stories so we can tell ourselves this is just one more. But children make-believe playing house, fighting dragons, dancing and karate, those kinds of things. If they’re saying that someone touched them inappropriately, that’s not normal make-believe — and something is going on that needs to be investigated!
KDB, I don’t understand why a women would falsely accuse a man or sexual assault or harassment either. And yet I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. I used to believe that women would never do such a thing, because what have they got to gain? I had my eyes opened while I was in the Army in a big way. I once had one of my NCOs accused of sexual harassment. Now, when I got the report I thought, “this is the most professional, upstanding man I’ve ever worked with and it’s hard to believe…but I guess you never truly know someone.”
I traveled to the fire base he was at (we were deployed) to relieve him of duty and find out what he had done, sure that no female soldier wold make up such a story. When I got there, I conducted an investigation and had my mind blown. This brand new soldier had severe mental issues and had having sexual with as many men on that base as she could get her hands on. As soon as word got around, the leadership on that base came to my NCO (her Squad Leader) and told him something had to be done. So, not wanting the girl to get in trouble he did the only thing he thought of, which was to confine her to her sleeping tent when she wasn’t working. Immediately, she lashed out by making completely crazy claims that she later admitted were lies and that literally every other person interviewed refuted. By he way, even though there wasn’t a shred of evidence of wrongdoing, this man had a letter of reprimand placed in his file that hurt his career because our chain of command didn’t want to appear “soft”on sexual harassment.
Since that time, I’ve been researching sexual assault and harassment, and truly had my mind blown. I still don’t understand why women do this sometimes, but you’d better believe that they do. And by the way, this notion that we don’t believe women and we do believe men when it comes to this stuff….that hasn’t been my experience at all.
Sadly I think the church is less likely to believe women then those outside of the church. Do you have thoughts on that?
J? What do you think?
Brian regarding my previous comments in regards to false accusations was in regards to sexual assault where the victim reports the crime to the police, and perhaps a trial follows. If you make an accusation against a high profile individual you are going to go through an incredible battle to see justice. Where I live, one could just read the newspaper to see what happens to these poor women. I think many many women just decide it is not worth it. Probably dozens if not hundreds don’t report for every rape that does get reported. I am not saying a false accusation can’t occur, I just don’t see most women putting themselves through that.
For many, when an accusation of rape is made, unless the rape appears to be a “real rape” chances are the woman’s name will be dragged through the mud.
Ashley, while I don’t know for sure, my gut feeling is that the person in a position of leadership is more likely to be believed in a church than the accuser, and that almost always means that the woman will not be as likely to be believed. Why? Because we look up to our church leaders as shining examples of morality and Christlikeness. It’s hard to think of them as people who could do something so terrible.
Now, this is wrong, but understandable. After all, to be a leader in the church should mean that a Christian is mature, disciplined, and demonstrates self-control. But we forget that they are just as fallible as any man, and sexual temptation seems to be able to bring low even the most spiritually mature person.
We should take accusations seriously and seek the truth. Punish transgressions, whether that be sexual impropriety or false accusations, and then seek reconciliation and forgiveness.
This discussion has been a real eye opener. As a 60 year old married man, who deeply loves his wife, and female relatives and friends, here are some of my thoughts: first personal, then more general.
I have, thankfully, never been accused, or even vaguely threatened with an accusation of harrassment, let alone assault. I like to give credit to my late mom, a pioneer in her profession generations before women leading *anything* was “cool”. Both for instilling in me a deep respect for women at an early age, and perhaps an inner courage if any woman tried anything like that. Again, I would *like* to think a mere stance of “do you reaaallly want to go there with me??” would have nipped such a liar in the bud. The truth is, I don’t know how I would respond. I have God to thank for never having been tested in this way. I also commend Andrew and the other guys for handling a nearly impossible situation as well as they could.
More generally, I was shocked to find so many of our guys on this site had been the target of false reports – but also glad that everyone here has followed the guidelines J laid out of leaving today’s powderkeg politics out of it. I think most if not all of us can agree that today’s media has a lot to answer for. (In what way, and what media outlets are doing the most damage is a discussion for another day. But perhaps as a country we can start with a general, agreement-in-progress and go from there.) As others have pointed out, it generalizes the malaise too much, and overlooks individual experience, except as sensationalized, isolated examples. And I even include some “good” examples as sometimes sensationalized, over-hyped.
As for what to do about it, again the OT does have guidelines, much of it common sense, adaptable to our times. Such as: one bringing a false report is to be punished as harshly as he or she sought to punish the innocent they’re accusing. Not certain off-hand of the reference, but it’s in there, within the first five books. And yes, real victims need to come forward more often – and not pretending that’s even a little bit easy.
Once again, good for everybody, engaging in a very difficult subject, with as much respect ans genuine concern as you all have.
Thank you so much for writing this post. This topic has been on my mind and heart all week and I appreciate your willingness to tackle a tough subject. We need more grace and understanding in our response to survivors of sexual assault.
I find it disheartening that conversations about sexual assault often devolve into conversations about false accusations and girls being attention seeking. Those occasions certainly exist, but it grieves me that the vast majority of sexual assault accusations are assumed to be unfounded.
I was one of “those girls” in high school that accused a well respected man in the community of sexual assault. I was that 15-year-old that everyone said was attention seeking. I wish that there was a better understanding of the obstacles that victims face to bring their case before a judge.
Reporting my assault, meant that I lost the right to privacy.
It meant that I gave strangers license to talk about sexual things that have been done to me.
It meant that everyone in my life- both my enemies and my friends- knew my darkest and most intimate secrets.
It meant that suddenly it became a round-table discussion on whether or not I deserved to be assaulted, whether or not I was “asking for it”
It meant that once more, I was robbed of my dignity and reduced to a sexual act that was done to me against my will.
The process was truly dehumanizing.
Yes, I got “attention”. No, it’s not attention what any 15-year-old (or a woman at any age) wants. I attempted suicide shortly after because of the trauma that came with the reporting process.
Ultimately, he pled guilty and was convicted, but the process of reporting and dealing with the fallout in my community was almost as traumatic as the assault itself. I wish that compassion was our default position when women report.
Again, thank you for sharing your perspective on this issue. I appreciate your balanced approach in dealing with a tough topic.
Oh, Holly, I can’t even imagine. I just want to hug that 15-year-old girl, tell her she did the right thing (and likely saved another girl from experiencing the same in the future), and reassure her that she is believed, valued, and strong. But thank you for showing courage here again in sharing your story. Blessings!
Couldn’t agree more, Holly and J, speaking again as a man who couldn’t relate first-hand to that if I tried or wanted to. I agree, Holly, that compassion should be “our default position when women report.” For what it’s worth, you have my compassion, though many years late, and my concern is, too late.
When one hurts – whether the one is a man or a woman – we ALL hurt. Whether we know it or not.
I might be seen as lacking compassion for saying this, but I think our default position should be to seek for the truth. Being raped is a horrible thing, and so is being accused unfairly of raping someone. So, when a girl claims she is raped and a man denies it, who do we give compassion to? I say neither. If you are friends or family of either party in such a case and you believe that person, then give them help and love. Otherwise, the truth is that you have no idea who is in need of compassion.
Let’s put it like this. Pretend your son was accused of raping a girl. He denies it and has a pretty good story and strong evidence that he did nothing wrong. You know your son’s character and harming a girl is something alien to that young man. Who do you give compassion to? Do you support your son who has been accused and you know in your heart couldn’t do such a thing, or do you give compassion to the girl who might very well destroy your son’s life?
We all need to stop rushing to judgement without evidence. Don’t believe either side if you aren’t intimately involved. Seek after justice and truth.
I believe a lot of what we’ve heard lately about believe the victim, believe the victim, believe the victim comes from years and years of victims’ allegations not being taken seriously. And they should be. When a report comes in, we should thoroughly investigate. But I agree that investigating doesn’t mean passing judgment until the testimony and evidence has been reasonably reviewed. False accusations do happen — not very often, but they do.
How about showing compassion to both accuser and accused? How about showing compassion to everyone? Generally speaking, people who make false accusations (or those who rape) are still hurting in some way, and showing them that we care is still important.
This is in NO WAY an attempt to make excuses for people who are doing wrong, but merely an opinionated observation that people who feel loved, cared about, and important tend to do the ‘right’ thing more often. We can show Gods love to the broken, as well as the righteous.
E, here is my opinion on compassion when it comes to things like this. The time for compassion is not when we are seeking justice. Love and compassion are two different things. God always loved the people of Israel, but due to their sin he withheld compassion at times and instead let righteous justice fall on them. It was only when they had a heart of repentance than he had compassion on them.
We shouldn’t first seek to give compassion to a preacher accused of adultery, we should treat him with caution, dignity, and respect until the facts come out. Likewise to an accuser. Now, we need to stop jumping to conclusions and attacking those who bring accusations, and we need to stop assuming someone is guilty without evidence.
Punish wrongdoing, whether that be because the accusations are true or if the person bringing the charges is found to be lying. Then, we can move forward with love and compassion. In extreme cases, we must separate that person from the church just as Paul instructed.
I don’t see compassion and justice as opposites. Mercy and justice perhaps, but not compassion. I think we can pursue truth while recognizing that real people, real hearts, real hurts are involved.
I would not want my son to be falsely accused of rape. I also wouldn’t want my daughter to be raped.
My son is almost 9 inches taller than my daughter. If I sat them down together this week I would tell them both to be honest in their lives. I would hope neither of them would be involved in hurting someone in any way.
I’d also have to tell my son that I would hope he would appreciate how his sister could be physically vulnerable in such a situation in a way he would not, given their size difference.
In regards to character though, I have lived long enough to see both men and women behave in a way that I did not think fit their character.
Rape has happened throughout human history, especially in cases where there was a power differential between the rapist and the one who was raped. I don’t think the topic is going away any time soon.
I’ve been debating about commenting on this for a while. I’m the 15 year old who didn’t report it. And I actually think that was the right thing to do. And 25 years later, I still know this man, I know his wife. I know testosterone got the better of him (he was 17) and I have absolutely no desire to destroy the life he has with his family. I see no reason for it. We were young. We were stupid. We were not drinking. He did not hit me or anything. It just, happened.
I willingly went off alone with him. I willingly kissed him. But when I thought we should stop, he didn’t. At that point there was really no way of stopping things. I did ask repeatedly to stop, but he did not agree.
I’m over it. I’ve told my husband. I haven’t told anyone else. I’ve healed. I’ve moved on. I’ve forgiven this guy. And I do not think today he needs to be held accountable for something we both did wrong as teenagers. I should have never put myself in that position.
If this alleged act in the news took place, that is not right. The timing of the reports is quite suspicious. The entire situation is unfortunate. I especially feel sad for the children of these families. What a mess.
I however, have moved on. I learned from my experience. I do not feel the need to go around broadcasting my dirty laundry.
It does, quite frankly, upset me when innocent men are accused unjustly. It upsets me when people say being slapped on the butt, or catcalled – is equivalent to sexual assault. Those things are wrong, but assault is a pretty harsh word.
You know who I think false accusers hurt the most? Other women. The women who are telling the truth. Kind of like a “boy who cried wolf” thing. I think people who make false accusations are doing a great deal of harm. Maybe people would be quicker to believe those who are telling the truth, if there weren’t so many highly reported instances of people lying.
The whole world is just a mess. Jesus is the only answer. Until people turn back to God, none of this will ever get better.
Sorry this was so long. Just my two cents
I agree that we need to stop acting like all these acts are equal. There’s a continuum here, such that the sexual harassment comments made by a teacher to me when I was in high school are NOT comparable to the pressured sex someone I know had which is also NOT comparable to the gang-rape a young woman I knew then experienced. These should be all be addressed, but they are not the same. My sexual harassment stunk, but I’d take that a thousand times over to spare the woman who was gang-raped. I would never act like what I went through was equal to that.
AnonymousForThis, your story sounds so much like mine that, frankly, it’s scary. The only difference is that I could have stopped it but I didn’t, and so I’m more at fault. I was physically stronger, but my body and heart really did want it so bad. I thought I loved her and I didn’t know what to do. We were stupid kids and although she was manipulative and very wrong to do what she did, she was also a kid and had a very hard life prior to this.
I own my part in what happened to me and had I not fallen to temptation in the first place none of the terrible things that happened later would have occurred. I hope she’s a different person today. It affected me for my whole life. But, there’s a huge difference between what happened to me and being held down and physically restrained and forced to have sex. I was in the wrong place and I knew it. I was alone with a girl I wanted and I knew it was dangerous. I don’t even think I can call what happened rape, despite the fact that I said no so many times.
Brian, I don’t see you as lacking compassion for seeking the truth. In agreeing with Holly that we should believe the victim’s story, I was referring to my own personal convictions, or if you will, “personal default position”, which I hope I have not contributed to making into yet another buzz-phrase. That position comes from experience and whatever intuition I’ve got.
When it comes to those who actually sit in judgment, judge, juries, pastors, or other, then of course we need them to be dispassionate and impartial in hearing all the evidence – and, I’ll add, asking God to reveal the truth. If such a judge/juror finds he/she cannot be impartial for that case, for whatever reason, he or she must step aside for someone who can.
To J’s point, a lot of the heart cry from and for women victims for being believed does come from so many years of being dismissed, not heard, or accused, or all three. And all crimes, misdemeanors, and misconduct are not the same.
One more thing that is not the same – and this is my final point, as I’ve probably said enough for one day – is men’s experience and women’s experience. Obvious, yes, but the fact that a sizeable group of both sexes are here discussing and exploring issues heavy and light, serious and funny, means we’re interested in each other – and exploring the hottest topic of all: sex. And that’s a good thing.
Best to all here, I’m out, but will be back from time to time.
Thank you for drawing attention to false rape accusations. In some jurisdictions, a false accusation is a crime, punishable by jail time. That doesn’t mean charges are always pressed, but it is a crime. Frequently you’ll see something like “charges were not pressed since it could stop others from reporting sexual assaults”. Why would charging someone for making a proven, false accusation frighten others away? I see it also as a implied claim that it isn’t a serious crime or that its impact on the falsely accused isn’t important.
See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2124170/Cassandra-Kennedy-Father-freed-decade-jail-daughter-admits-lied-raping-11.html for an example. This may also impact the statistics.
I also want to add to what many here have mentioned about behaviour in the office.
For years now, I do not approach ANY women where I work or where I hang out, like the gym where I work out.
If I have to talk to someone for work, I do so, and limit it to that. There are two new female employees, at least new to my work environment around me, one on the other side of the cubicle wall and I’ve not introduced myself to either of them.
It’s just not worth the risk to my career. If I need to choose between appearing rude and stand-offish or risk a false harassment claim, I’ll take option 1.
This hasn’t stopped a number women from approaching me first, typically when I’m in the office kitchen, but I stand by my policy of avoiding contact. It’s just not worth the risk.
That news story is so very sad. But when you read it all, clearly it was a perfect storm of a lot of chaos going on in a young girl’s life. I doubt similar cases are widespread. Still, her father paid a huge price for her deceit. We must genuinely care about the truth and the people involved, doing all we can to determine what happened and what the consequences should therefore be.
I am male. When I was single, occasionally women with whom I was not interested in a relationship would present themselves to me naked, and (sparing the details) press themselves on me sexually. In at least two cases, they did so at the urging of their psychologists, who felt that this would help them overcome issues with their sexuality. The last time it happened (with the psychologist’s blessing), the explicit goal was to break up the relationship with the woman I married. I have always wondered why, if the definition for sexual harassment is “unwanted sexual advances,” when women do it it is instead “embracing their sexuality.”
Wow. That is not okay.
Not sure if he did everything he has been accused of by these multiple women or not, but one thing is absolutely certain. We now live in a “guilty until proven innocent” society when it comes to crimes against women. We have a son in middle school that we must now change the way we talk to him about interacting with girls. We always told him to treat them with respect and kindness and that was good enough, but now we think it’s probably best to avoid certain situations altogether. Dating is definitely off the table until he leaves the nest now. And even then we’ll likely tell him not to date until he’s in his thirties. Sounds extreme? Definitely. But better safe than sorry. It never occurred to me to worry about my son of being accused of a sexual crime, but now that fear is definitely high up on the list.
Mike, it’s challenging to avoid fear regarding these things. But as someone who has grown young men, I can say that it’s possible to raise children who choose good paths and good friends. We taught them about respect and caution in dating, but they chose their way on when that would happen. Both waited until college, but I’m glad they’re not waiting longer. Because they are ready to embrace their place in the world and be a force of good within it. And as Christians, we should challenge our children to live boldly, in the Lord. I pray that your sons will learn how to treat women with respect, but not fear them. Men and women have far more in common than we differ.
Thanks for taking on this difficult topic, J. Rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse are serious problems in our country, and in the church, and in my view they traditionally have not been taken seriously. I hope that is changing, and I’m happy that the #MeToo movement is encouraging many women to tell their stories.
Also, I have worked in a large secular workplace for many years. Men and women work together regularly, one on one and in groups. False accusations simply don’t happen – in 20+ years I have never seen it. I know that some men in some settings have been falsely accused, but I believe that the idea that men are now under assault from all sides by false accusers just isn’t true.
Boz Tchivijian (hope I spelled that right!), a Christian attorney and former sex crimes prosecutor, says that about 7% of sexual assault allegations are false. And most of those don’t go to trial or end up with a conviction. People talk about the Duke lacrosse case as an example of false accusations that did go to trial, but that case involved a corrupt prosecutor, who eventually went to jail. So if you have a corrupt prosecutor you’re going to end up with a corrupt case, whether the charge is rape, murder, or anything else.
False accusations do happen to men, and as a wife and mom of sons that concerns me. But I am much more concerned about my nieces and other young women, because sexual assault and abuse are very common, and our society makes it very difficult for victims to come forward and seek justice.
That 7% number gets passed around but it’s very misleading. Here is why it’s probably not what you think:
The term “false report” refers to an instance of a rape accusation what was factually proven by law enforcement to have not occurred. This would be the case when the accuser admits she lied or when overwhelming evidence exists that it was a lie (such as the accused man not even being in the country at the time of the alleged attack). This is essentially the same standard of evidence that is required to convict a person of rape.
So, how rape accusations end in a conviction? Most do not. Most cases are dropped due to lack of evidence or do proceed to a trial and end in an acquittal. Do all those dismissed cases and acquittals mean the accused man was actually innocent? Of course not.
The truth is that we have no idea how many rape accusations are actually false. It is somewhere between the number of proven false reports (your 7% number), and the number of cases that don’t end in a conviction. But, all that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if 99% of accusations are true any more than it would matter that 99% were false. We should treat accusations the same.
On a side note, I personally think it’s pretty messed up to care less about our boys than we do girls, but that’s the way we usually treat these kinds of issues so I’m not that surprised.
That link is actually really good, in that it highlights that there are at least four paths for sexual assault reporting: incidents found to have sufficient evidence to be pursued in court; incidents found to be false; incidents that are considered “baseless”—meaning they might be true, but there is a lack of evidence to determine whether the stated crime occurred; incidents that are never reported to law enforcement.
False accusations seem to comprise 4-7% of reports made to law enforcement. Then there is some percentage of reports deemed baseless, which means something might or might not have happened, but the corroborating evidence just isn’t there to pursue a case. I tried looking for statistics in the U.S. for baseless reports, but actually one study that used 5.9% being false was actually false or baseless, and I don’t see any more specific stats (at least in my cursory internet scan). Meanwhile, in Canada, there were reports of up to 1 in 5 charges being false or baseless, which would be around 20%. That certainly higher than 4-7%, but then let’s consider how many sexual assaults are never reported. Every expert agrees that’s a big number, and my experience in talking with women is in line with that view. So even if we agree that a bunch of false reports exist beyond the 5% that I cited, still 4 in 5 women are telling the truth and a bunch of women didn’t report. That stinks.
And I absolutely care about boys as much as girls! I have sons, Gaye has sons…we get it. But sadly, for a long time in our society’s history, boys seemed to receive better treatment than women in this area, so maybe it’s not so surprising to see the pendulum swinging the other way. Like you, I don’t want it to swing so far that we choose females over males no matter what, but the reality is that many women have been sexually assaulted, and it’s time for that to stop.
According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, approximately 2/3 of rapes are not reported by women, which is pretty huge. It’s easily the least reported violent crime, with the exception of male rape. I want to live in a world where any victim of rape comes forward so that justice can be done, even if that doesn’t mean that the perpetrator is always convicted. The only way I see to do that is for our society to act rationally and with a mind towards justice, not emotion, when it comes to accusations. Everyone seems to jump on the side of “he’s guilty “ or “she’s lying “ way too early, and that’s wrong.
We simply have to treat every accusation with a certain amount of suspicion in order to be objective. Every person should consider the fact that it could be true, and also that it could be false. I do understand why there is a cry of “believe women”, and it’s understandable to an extent. But it’s also dead wrong. There’s a reason that the very verses you cited in the Old Testament instructed Israel to convict someone on the testimony of two or more witnesses. It’s because humans are not trustworthy.
I’m not saying that all women lie or even most. I honestly have no idea how many accusations aren’t true, but I’ve seen it with my own two eyes and I’ve seen an innocent man thrown under the bus because it was easy rather than right. I’ve simply not experienced this supposed whitewashing of most sexual assaults people claim. Maybe it’s because I’m younger than some of you and so my perspective is different.
Yes, but that OT scripture shows that in the case of rape, there may be no second witness. And the default position seemed to be to believe her. Mind you, I think they would—and should—seek corroborating evidence. Let’s say a woman claimed rape, but there was no evidence that she or he was in the place where she said they were at the time she said; that’s a problem. And witnesses about the person’s character or other accusations could be important as well. For instance, Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of rape, but I suspect if the house servants felt like they could tell the truth, they would have painted her as an opportunist, and surely she’d bedded other men before (and after).
In our own society, historically speaking, some women would come forward about a sexual assault, and immediately the investigation turned on them: Why was she with the guy? What provocative clothes was she wearing? Had she slept with other men? What she drinking? Did she really want it? It was a line of questioning that put the burden of proof on the woman not just to establish the crime but to establish that she herself was worth getting justice. And that’s where a lot of women, I believe, are coming from.
I agree we must take each individual case and do our very best to find out what really happened. And sometimes, we’ll find out that the accuser is lying or mistaken. But we at least need to take the allegation seriously enough to treat both parties as worthy of justice.
I agree with you completely on your thoughts about Deuteronomy 19:15 with regards to rape. Just because there is only one witness (the accuser) doesn’t mean it should be impossible to find someone guilty. There should be other evidence to corroborate her testimony, such as physical evidence, consistency of her testimony (does everything add up, are there gaps), etc. Also, the character of the accuser and the character of the accused is often used to show realibility of the testimony.
This (in my opinion) is a fair method in a situation where there is only one witness. Things like previous sexual crimes, a history of lying, etc can establish the likelihood that the person giving testimony should be believed. Although it might seem mean, questions like what the accuser was wearing, was she drinking, did she have a history of being promiscuous, etc can give some clues as to the possible character and mindset at the time of the alleged crime.
Of course, this can come across as attacking the victim, and it’s definitely got to be hard. The same kinds of questions should be asked for the accuser and the accuser. I don’t know any other way to do it, and this kind of thing isn’t isolated to rape. It’s just by the nature of the crime, it makes it doubly hard for the victim to want to come forward. This is why rape should be punished most harshly when it is proven, and false accusations should be punished just as severely.
Thanks, but those questions…they really have hurt a number of women in they way they’ve been asked. As if drinking or dressing in a flirtatious way was “asking for it.” UGH. We should certainly gather as much information as possible, but we used to do this so badly. I’m glad to see how many law enforcement officers and prosecutors are now taking seriously how to interview accusers/victims so that they can gather evidence without verbally attacking someone who has already been physically attacked.
By the way, it just occurred to me that one of my favorite shows recently is BROADCHURCH, a British crime series in which third season is about solving a case of rape. And they did an astoundingly good job showing how such incidents can be handled with both thoroughness and compassion.
Gaye…very good comment.
J….thanks for hosting these discussions on your blog.
My heart has been hurting in these past few weeks for all victims of sexual assault.
J, thanks for a difficult post and what I hope will turn out to be a fruitful discussion. I know you said this post is not about male-bashing, but this whole discussion, here and across the nation, is taking place in a culture of politically correct male-bashing. Universities are now teaching required courses on toxic masculinity. Young men are constantly being fed the line that, simply by being male, that are bad, they are predators, they are nothing but trouble.
I’ve been on both sides of this. As a young teacher, I was falsely accused by a female student of sexually and physically abusing her. She finally admitted to the lies, but it put me and my wife though hell. And it changed the way I interacted with my students. I withdrew from them more and hardened myself against any caring for them. And this was at a time when the educational mantra was, “they won’t care what you know until they know you care.”
On the other side, I was molested as a boy. The shame and fear kept me silent. One was by an employee of a men’s clothing store. When I was a young teenager, he took advantage of me. I was so afraid and ashamed that I never told anyone about it until this year, and I’m 61 now.
Earlier, I was abused by my own brothers. Talk about afraid to speak up! I knew even that young that they would deny it and would probably beat me up if I told. I finally told my parents about it when I was 40. I had forgiven them and was trying to get past it, but my dad confronted them. Of course they denied it, and the whole thing destroyed any relationship I have with my family now. I understand why those who don’t speak up want to keep silent.
I think where I am now on this is, please, please, please don’t lump me in with these horrible men who do these horrible things. Investigate the allegations, prosecute when warranted, reject false claims, show some discernment and common sense.
But what I pick up in the media, and to an extent from some commentors on blog discussions like this one, is that there is a widespread suspicion of men as men. I’m convinced that during the years that my wife was sexually refusing me, she was being influenced by this cultural atmosphere that assumes men are animals or worse, that all of us men are to be regarded with suspicion, and that all men need to start apologizing for and atoning for the evil acts of some men.
Sorry for the long rant, but I’m torn between heartbreak for real victims, and outrage that in the minds of many women, I’m lumped into a group of bad people merely because I share the trait of having xy chromosomes. You might equally lump me in with bad people who have brown hair, wear glasses, or like French toast. Let’s try to judge each case on its merits or lack or merits.
I agree with everything you said, and I’m heartbroken that you went through such tough experiences. Honestly, while I don’t want to get into current politics, I’ve been saying many times over during recent discussions that it MATTERS what actually happened. It can be easy to lump people together and stereotype (one way or another), but individual cases affect individual people and families…and our God is—and thus we should be—concerned about the truth.
Bobthemusicguy, you are one of so many male teachers I’ve heard of that get accused of sexual abuse in school. At one point I considered becoming a teacher when I got out of the Army, and I’m now glad that I didn’t. I’m glad you were cleared of that, but if she hadn’t confessed you never would have lifted that shadow of suspicion even if you had been found innocent by the school.
Am I the only man on this thread who hasn’t been falsely accused of sexual harassment or assault? This seems extreme.
Brian, thanks for your words of support. I don’t think you are the only one at all. It’s like the nightly news. All we usually see is the bad stuff, so we forget that there are lots of good citizens out there who daily go about their business without causing or receiving trouble. You see accusations, true or false, tending to be concentrated in certain kinds of jobs, or in certain kinds of relationships, whether in schools, workplaces, or homes.
If I had been the father of that girl, I would have been angry at me, too. But I knew enough about the family history to know that the parents should have had at least some question of their daughter’s veracity. And my bosses at the school knew my character and doubted the accusations. They also had a history with the girl. What hurt me the most, after the investigation was over and I was cleared, was that there was nothing in the way of apology from the parents or the girl. I was swept under the rug.
Because of the emotions involved, there is often an understandable rush to judgement. But also the fact that this has become a media circus, turns people against each other in irrational ways. I think that, although there is a danger of sweeping things under rug, such accusations should be handle privately and quietly, much like what is supposed to happen in juvenile court. That would protect the victims and encourage them to come forward, and it would protect the accused should the accusations prove false. By all means, let’s be loud in our condemnation of sex crimes IN GENERAL and support victims IN GENERAL. But let’s try to cut out the public spectacle that often goes along with this.
I have a very real concern that this, like many other worthy causes, becomes a “cause du jour” that dies down and it soon forgotten, while making little if any, substantive change.
I was sexually abused as a child, but no one believed me. I also lost my virginity from a rape, but I never reported it. (The full story was that I had two bottles of wine in me and I put myself in a compromising situation with my impaired judgment. There is only so many times a person can say “no” and “please stop” before it’s too late.
That is not an excuse to justify that persons assault, but I was not going to destroy someone’s life for revenge by reporting it. And anyway, no one would believe a man, even one that caught a curable STD in the assault.)
I have also been on the opposite side and have been falsely accused of harassment and stalking. Women obtain power over men in any way they can so they can feel powerful and in control. These people are hurt and they are trying to function the best they can in a messed-up world. They hurt others.
I do not trust people now. People are selfish and do what validates their world view even at the detriment to others. I am blessed to have an amazing wife and children I do trust though. In the end, God’s love wins.
It cracks my heart that you went through this.
However, I honestly don’t understand this statement: “I was not going to destroy someone’s life for revenge by reporting it.” WHAT?! That is justice, not revenge, my friend. If someone faces the consequences of sexual assault, that was their choice to sin / commit a crime.
And this is a blanket statement against women: “Women obtain power over men in any way they can so they can feel powerful and in control.” Which simply isn’t true of many females.
My point is simply that some evil people will assault or take advantage, and they should be stopped and made to pay for their actions (because that’s justice and how we learn!). But indeed, truth matters so that should be pursued as well. False accusations don’t help us put resources where they should be — on real assaults, of which there are too many.
Sometimes things that happened in the past are better left in the past. The girl that took advantage of me was certainly evil then, but it’s been 22 years. She’s almost certainly a different person now and happens to be married to someone very important. What good would reporting her or blasting her name in social media do? I forgave her long ago, and what she did to me was very much my fault in so many ways anyway. I’m a man, and no one would believe me or give me the slightest bit of sympathy. If I did that it would be just because I wanted to hurt her, and that is the definition of revenge. Revenge doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to God. Why would I destroy her, her husband, and her children over something she did when she was so young? If I wanted justice, not that I would’ve gotten justice, I should have reported it then.
I can understand that. I just think we all need to be way better about reporting when it happens, especially since few perpetrators do something like this only once…and our speaking up can save someone else the heartache we went through.
I agree with you about reporting. And it does weigh on me that she probably hurt many other men, and in fact I know she hurt other men in many ways after me. In a way I did help her to be dealt with, just not for her sexual crimes. I helped put her behind bars a few years after what she did to me by helping the police find her after she went on a stealing spree fueled by drugs. I hope that helped put her on the right path but I don’t know.
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