Don't Shame Sexual Assault Survivors

11/02/2014 05:26 EST | Updated 01/02/2015 03:59 EST
Joan Vicent Canto Roig via Getty Images

If you don't believe her, then you'd probably never believe me.

When I was 19 years old, I became part of the "one in five" statistic. The one that dictates one in every five women in post-secondary education will be raped. But from the way the public has reacted to the allegations around Jian Ghomeshi, I doubt many would believe me.

It's the same every time a woman comes out accusing someone of rape. Before the sympathy, the sadness, the anger towards this horrible crime, there's one thing that comes first and is screamed the loudest: "she's lying."

"She's lying." Those two words make me shake with anxiety and rage. Though I try, I can't wrap my head around the public's assumption that a woman would lie about being raped. There is little to no incentive to lie about being raped. The likelihood of profiting off a settlement? Slim to none. The likelihood of a rapist being convicted? Dismal chances. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) less than three per cent of rapists will spend a single day in prison. That's three out of every 100.

The likelihood of being bullied, harassed by the media, threatened, and humiliated is alarmingly high for a sexual assault victim. The odds of losing friends, having family members treat her differently, and being ostracized by her entire community are also high.

According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) less than three per cent of rapists will spend a single day in prison.

What's more, only two to four per cent of rape accusations are false. That means that 96 to 98 per cent of rape accusations are fact. No matter which way you put it, there's not only incentive not to lie about rape, but statistically, it's just not likely that someone would.

Sure, it's not nice to hear that a beloved radio broadcaster and talented interviewer has been accused of doing something so incredibly awful. Toronto police are urging victims to come forward. An investigation is now underway but no charges have been made. He still has many supporters and fans who may feel his image has been tainted.

But guess what's worse: being the victim of abuse. No matter the facts of the Ghomeshi case, this is a time to remember that shaming victims is not the right approach. Survivors have to deal with our whole lives feeling tainted.

We cope with our bodies feeling dirty, feeling wronged. My abuser will never have to deal with the mental problems that I faced as the aftermath of being sexually assaulted.

People begin to speculate: why now? Why did it take so long? Is she coming out with the allegations now to profit from it? It's wrong for someone who is not a survivor of rape to ask such questions.

Going public about being sexually assaulted is one of the scariest and riskiest things a person can do. Eighty per cent of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows -- usually family or friends. It can take us months or years to even come to terms with the fact that someone we loved and trusted could have hurt us.

Rapists are not usually the masked creeps in the alleyway. They are family, they are spouses, best friends, public figures. They are not random strangers who are outlier deviants to society.

After serious accusations against Ghomeshi from nine women so far, the public is finally starting to take this matter seriously. Only two woman, Lucy DeCoutere and Reva Seth, have not remained anonymous. But why should it take eight women to be heard? Would their voices be insignificant if they stood alone? Sexual violence happening to only one woman is still one too many.

I am bombarded by various news updates about Jian Ghomeshi. And as a result I am bombarded by various comments: she's attention seeking, she's lying. Every moment is a reminder: if you don't believe her, you would never believe me.


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