The Internet Hate Machine’s Nuanced Response To The UVA And Stanford Rapes
On Wednesday I wrote a post applauding Stanford University’s response to an accusation of rape on their campus.To my surprise, the comment section of this post quickly became filled with hundreds of people (primarily men) blaming the victim and complaining about the fact that when women falsely accuse men of rape, they aren’t punished the way rapists are.
Holy fuckballs, you guys.
On January 18th, Stanford freshman Brock Turner was caught allegedly raping an unconscious woman by two passers-by. The school barred him from campus, removed him from the swim team (for which he was heavily recruited) and he has withdrawn from the university. I briefly contrasted this reaction to the response of schools like UVA, who are on a list of schools compiled last year by the Department of Education for, “possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.” UVA is, of course, also the school that was the center of a recent controversy involving a Rolling Stone article about a UVA student who was allegedly gang-raped. Rolling Stone did some sloppy reporting, the alleged victim “Jackie” was vilified, and rape apologists everywhere got a new go-to story to use to cast doubt on any college student who claims he or she was raped.
Within 24 hours, my post about the alleged Stanford rape had gone viral. It’s not because of the story itself, which can be read about on countless news sites, and it’s not because I had any new light to shed on it. No, it’s because I mentioned UVA as an example of how not to handle accusations of rape. The comments section of that post became filled with men, angry men, making the following claims: 1) “Jackie” was a liar and therefore I shouldn’t have used UVA as an example; 2) that women lie about rape and we should take those false accusations just as seriously as we take rape, and 3) that Turner is innocent until proven guilty. Oh, and also I am an uptight c**t. So, there’s that.
I’m going to address each of these issues today. Well, except for the c**t one — I’m just going to pray for the women who are unfortunate enough to be in those men’s lives.
Angry Man-plaint 1: “Jackie” was a liar.
I got a ton of comments saying that “Jackie’s” Rolling Stone story was proven to be a lie. First of all, this was nowhere near the point of my story. I was comparing the response of one institution to another, I was not comparing the validity of two different rapes. The fact that people immediately went there speaks volumes about how our culture still views victims of rape with suspicion, and, frankly, how much disdain some men have for women. If your reaction to “Jackie’s” story is, “that bitch lied just like other girls who regret one-night-stands,” then you don’t like women very much. Also, you’re an asshole.
Second, the idea that Jackie’s story was proven false is just not true. I am going to quote from an opinion piece Sally Kohn wrote for CNN about this issue, because she lays it out beautifully:
We don’t yet know all the facts behind the now-infamous, poorly fact-checked story in Rolling Stone about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. What we do know: Rolling Stone at first blamed the alleged victim, “Jackie” — rather than its own journalistic sloppiness — for so-called “discrepancies” (before changing its callous statement).
And new reporting by the Washington Post does reveal that Jackie’s friends, cited in the story, say they are skeptical about some of the details. Still, they all believe that Jackie experienced something “horrific” that night, in the words of one, and we do know that Jackie stands by her story. Most of the doubts about it were apparently raised by those she’s accusing, including the fraternity and main alleged assailant — whom, I guess, we’re supposed to believe instead.
“Jackie” has not admitted to lying – in fact, she still insists she was raped. There is nothing about Rolling Stone’s retraction or any of the subsequent news stories that says that “Jackie” wasn’t raped. No one knows, and I, for one, choose to believe her. I worked with survivors of sexual assault for about seven years, and I can say definitively that lying about rape simply does not happen as much as some would like to believe. I mean, as appealing as enduring the many hours it takes to collect evidence for a rape kit sounds, and even though most women feel that the appropriate punishment for a one-night-stand is for the man involved to go to prison for a few decades, and as much as every woman wants her friends and family members to think that she has been, let’s say, anally raped, it just doesn’t happen that much. Sorry.
That leads us nicely into number two…