Walking Away

Girl On The Net wrote an excellent post recently on sexual assault and the fallout from the James Dean revelations. This was inevitably followed by comments on the post that fell into a depressing conversation that I’ve had before.

“Look, I’m not saying that rape isn’t a really horrible thing.”

“Good, ok, so we’re agreed on that.”

“It’s just, because it’s a serious crime it’s only fair that there should be a high burden of proof and false accusations do happen and the effect it ca…”

I tail off there because both times I’ve had this conversation (this particular conversation, so close that I can’t recall there being any differences even in the words used, like they were both using the same cliff-notes version of lazy self-justification) this was more or less the point that I walked away.

Both times when I did this the person I was talking to took it badly, both times they tried desperately to make me sit there and listen to them finish their sentence, and both times I refused to. I knew exactly what they were about to say, precisely how reasonable it would sound, and with absolute certainty that it was bullshit.

The reason I walked away, and the reason I will continue to walk away is simply this: it’s not that what’s being said is necessarily (and in a purely factual way) wrong, it’s that the way in which they are framing the discussion precludes anything actually changing.

There’s an excellent image that shows estimates of the number of incidents of rape, reported rape, prosecution and false accusations. When you look at the numbers the only way you can possibly justify emphasising the role of false accusations is basically to say that this tiny group here is more important than this overwhelmingly huge group here. It’s privilege in its most basic form, prioritizing men over women.

The other element in this is that there are things that can be done, huge amounts of things. But the follow-on that always comes from these conversations is a sort of shrug of the shoulders and a suggestion that yes it sucks but there’s no way around it.

Fuck that noise. There are people dedicating entire careers to raising awareness of the myriad of pragmatic practical things that can be done to tackle the woeful figures of rape prosecutions. Simple things like giving juries briefings on what PTSD is and how it may manifest,

I’ve been trying to say these things to some people for ten fucking years and the conversation is still the same. Until the conversation changes I will continue to walk away, because you’re asking the wrong questions.