Thursday, November 16, 2017

Roy Moore: Why We Should Believe the Victim

Leigh Corfman, 14-Roy Moore, 32 
Roy Moore, a judge of questionable character

Roy Moore, always smiling 

First, a quick story. Yes, a #MeToo.

I'm fifteen and am visiting a friend I haven't seen in a long time. We were once best friends, but when we hit high school, no classes together, we didn't keep up. But for some reason I'm there, in her house, and so are about a dozen others. I haven't made it past the kitchen when her father, in a big blue bathrobe, appears. He is a very tall, imposing man, and he's all smiles, very happy to see me, especially. He takes my hand into his, and proceeds to pull it under his bathrobe.
I pull free and spit out these words. I cannot believe, to this day, that these words came to me: Go jag off in the john!
Then I ran home and told my mom, who told me: Don't tell your father. He'll kill him.
So I didn't, and I didn't tell anyone, not for another 20 years.
Because that is how long it can be for a person to process an event like that.
When I think about it, if I had told people, they might have believed me. My friend is probably a survivor of incest. He likely did that to her, and much worse. It makes me very sad but explains why she distanced from me after that, has never seemed very comfortable in my presence. Who knows what he told her. There were witnesses. Who knows what the other kids believed. 
One thing I know, for sure. That man was a sexual predator (he's probably dead by now).
And being one who preferred adolescents, the technical label is ephebophile. 

But he could have started with his daughter when she was younger. I hope not.

And that story? It is a nothing story, compared to the many that we hear in therapy. And now, you're hearing them, too.

First hand accounts of what sexual predators have done to women, men. Professionals like myself wonder: Are the numbers going down? That statistic that tells us that one woman is raped every minute, has it change? Unlikely, because those tend to be international statistics. The Harvey Weinstein story might not be heard in impoverished patriarchal societies without Internet. Not everyone has a computer or can afford to be a news junky; not everyone is informed.

But if you're reading this, you've heard it all. It would have been hard to miss the Weinstein story, the one about Kevin Spacey, Louis Ck, etc. So many others, mostly in entertainment. And now, Roy Moore.

Mr. Moore has adamantly denied that he forced young adolescent girls into sexual acts, or coerced any of them to be his "girlfriend." He has everything to lose if he is vilified as a sex offender. Which is why Mrs. Moore stands at his side. It is bad for her, humiliating. So she will deny knowing, and indeed, may not have known.

I have a friend, a professional who after doing some research into sexual assault on campus, decided to go into sexual assault/harassment prevention as a sideline. She developed workshops and tried to worm her way into big corporations and schools, even got as far as talking to a lawyer for the NFL, and a proposal for them. But she wasn't hired anywhere but in schools that worried about Internet predators. 

She tells me that it is because exposure could cost a company millions of dollars in client revenue, and if there is a problem it is handled within, by HR, and that most human resources complaints are about sexual harassment, and they fall on the floor (like some of my claims to insurance companies).

In corporate it is exceedingly difficult to get taken seriously with allegations, and the EEOC, flooded with complaints, vets them, too, and there are wait times of years between the complaint and the action. By then the complainant has lost her job, expected retaliation by the company, and she suffers survivor fatigue. After awhile, you live with it.

But it shouldn't be, as we all know. Post traumatic stress, the almost inevitable consequence of violence of any kind, isn't necessary in a person's psyche. We could all do very well without it.


Why believe the victims who come forward, as opposed to the alleged perpetrators?

1. Because it takes tremendous courage to do that, to tell everyone (because everyone will hear) that you have been coerced into a sexual relationship, have somehow found yourself (victims say stupidly) in a sexual situation that you didn't want or understand.

There are different methods of coercion, but regardless the type, when the victim is still a minor she cannot legally say yes to sex with an adult. Minors can't grant informed consent. So they feel horrible and guilty when they are subject to sexual assault. Confrontation takes strength and confidence.

2. Because it means confrontation, just speaking up, comes with potential public humiliation, embarrassment, and future references to sexual experience. The perpetrator is likely to deny the accusations, so one's future, a woman or man's reputation is at stake.

One who comes out as having been sexually assaulted or harassed risks their own good name, Stories follow people. Getting hired, even getting into certain schools, can be harder when there are Facebook references to sex, especially when one is reputed to be a whistle blower, a person who is likely to complain about future offenders.  (We wouldn't want that at the company).

3. Because of the fear of retaliation, even fear for one's life or safety. When a woman, or a man, comes forward and accuses another of a sexual crime, there's that risk. Who would do that if it weren't worth the risk, preventing the perpetrator from future crimes?

4.  Because of the precariousness of mental health, we prefer to be symptom-free. Mental health is a terrible thing to lose, and assault and harassment are associated with depression, anxiety, post , traumatic stress, and a host of other diagnoses, not to mention pregnancy and sexual transmitted disease. In the process of exposure and reporting, women (and men) report re-victimization, re-traumatization or secondary trauma, disbelief and difficulty with work relationships.

5. Because of the culture of disbelief. Men believe, have been socialized to believe, that if a woman (or a girl, man, boy) dresses a certain way, or drinks too much, that this is an invitation to a sexual response, sexual behavior, that it is wanted. Even if the victim said No, it is thought she meant Yes.

Sexual assault prevention professionals, like my friend, don't believe that. They say that NO MEANS NO. That No really in truly, means no.

That is all based upon research findings. Although sexual assault victims rarely get the help they need (it is unfortunate, but true), and they aren't likely to volunteer as research subjects, sexual assault counselors and researchers confirm their stories. So there are hundreds of counselors who have seen thousands of victims and their thinking, the thinking of the counselors and protection agency professionals is that, actually. . .

Women Do Not Ask For It. And that they guy, well, he probably did it.