Someone I know was recently accused of rape. As a survivor and Founder of Creating Consent Culture, it has been very difficult admitting to myself that the claims against him may be true. There are very few articles discussing what it's like when someone you love gets accused of sexual assault so I'm writing the article I need to read.
Let's get real: the men who are raping women and getting off scot-free are our friends, brothers, sons, cousins, uncles, fathers, grandfathers, doctors, law enforcers, judges, lovers, partners, husbands.
Here are some things to consider if this happens to someone you know:
1. Accept the dual nature of humans.
We all have good and bad within us. Some of us are more wrapped up in doing good and helping others, while some get caught in the web of destruction and hurting others. You may know one side of the person and have never known their darkness. It is important to realize that we all have deep, dark secrets. We all have pain. We don't really know people like we think we do, even the people we think we couldn't know any better.
2. Nobody wants to know a sexual predator.
Far too often we deny and ignore the truth because it is just too difficult to accept. It takes a great deal of courage to admit that someone we love and trusted has harmed others in unheard of ways. The fact of the matter is, we all know sexual predators. Like chameleons, they blend in. Their charm, prestige, and reputations are their armor which they hide behind. Admitting to ourselves would inadvertently mean admitting to the world that we have befriended, married, or given birth to a sexual predator. The guilt, shame, and disgrace we feel personally causes us to convince ourselves that they are innocent-- perpetuating rape culture for our own sake.
3. Just because they were not convicted, doesn't mean they didn't do it.
According to the Rape & Incest National Network (RAINN), 97% of rapists never spend a day in jail. Courts around the world systematically rule in favor of the assailant, rarely providing survivors the justice they deserve. It's unreasonable to say, "he didn't do it because the court said so" because our courts are notorious for giving sexual predators a slap on the wrist, if they even get convicted at all. The majority of rapists claim their innocence, very few admit, which leads me to my next point: just because they say they didn't do it, doesn't mean they are telling the truth.
4. Set aside your feelings and be honest with yourself.
Most people who hear of a friend or family member who has been accused of rape or sexual assault would say, "I know him. No way! He would never do that!" The fact of the matter is, sexual assault happens in very subtle ways by "good people" every day. Although it may be difficult to accept, you are not the victim here. The person you love that was accused is not the victim. There is only one victim in this situation: the survivor of the assault. They have been dehumanized and violated in the worst of ways. Send them love and prayer. They are the one who needs the most support at this time.
5. You are not their actions.
The horrible things they did are not a reflection on you. You are not to blame for their ignorance, violence, and negligence. Although it is shameful to admit that someone we care for is a sexual predator, YOU are not responsible for their actions, only they are.
Keep in mind that by defending the actions of our friends and lovers that are rapists, we justify sexual violence. It's not your place to wonder if they really did it or not. In order to create a culture of consent, it is important that we believe and support ALL survivors of sexual assault, even when we don't want to. According to the FBI, only 2-8% of rape claims are false, meaning that 92-98% percent of rape claims are true.
The only way we can create a culture of consent is to confront the harsh reality that our friends and family are not immune to committing crimes. The more we talk about it, the closer we will get to creating a rape-free world.