From the May-June 2023 issue of News & Letters
It is status quo for police, judges and the general public, to doubt women’s accusations of abuse by men. (And yes, I know, I know: abuses can happen the other way around too, but real data on rapes and murders indicate more occurrences and greater damage done to women by men than to men by women. And you don’t have to tell me that same-sex abuses happen too, but let’s look at this situation for now.)
In general, it is humiliating, and a losing battle, to accuse someone of abuse or rape. Naturally, it’s important to listen to accusations with objectivity, and some amount of skepticism, to be on the side of fairness and truth. But the idea that women are seeking money, and commonly lie about partner violence and sexual abuse, is a myth.
Fraudulent accusations are rare, and assaults are vastly underreported. Women realize that it is a gamble to call on a patriarchal institution for protection from abuse by a man. Women normally expect to be ignored or scorned.
RISKS OF REPORTING
Reporting abuse can be dangerous in multiple ways, some of which are discussed in a new Netflix documentary, “Victim/Suspect.” Entitled abusers can be vengeful, and may successfully ruin the life of the accuser—and may kill her. Exposing him is traumatic.
It is one of the most intensely vulnerable choices imaginable, not a malicious pursuit of victory.
Even friends and families may doubt accusers or blame the accuser for one thing or another, rather than focus on the probable cruelty and deceitfulness of the accused.
Habitual abusers have ways of trapping their targets, physically, emotionally, financially, socially, etc. They tend to victimize people addictively, and stay steps ahead of their targets as though the abuse were some sort of dangerous game. Institutional indifference is simply an extension of what the abuser can do.
This is why the “Me Too” movement is hugely about courage and has required unified energy, in a world that prefers women to compete with one-another. We need all the men who say “But I’m not like that” to be explicit about helping us to create a safer world.