America is in the midst of a social reckoning. After decades of abuses, women are speaking up and speaking out about the sexual harassment, abuse, and assault that they have long suffered at the hands of some of the nation’s most powerful and influential men.
When Hollywood finally began to acknowledge the countless women who Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed, abused, and exploited, it seemed like the floodgates opened. Since then, almost every day that passes comes with another story of harassment perpetrated by men long respected in their fields.
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Those of us on the left like to seat ourselves on the moral high ground of the conversation, and often rightfully so. Liberals are generally more inclined to recognize and acknowledge such abuses. Hollywood’s liberals made it clear that we would no longer tolerate such abuses from men like Weinstein.
Things become complicated, however, when the accused is someone we like.
Johnny Depp was recently cast in the Harry Potter Sequel films prompting many to question author J.K. Rowling about the decision. Rowling has long supported charities that provide advocacy and assistance to women who have been victims of domestic violence. The speculation is that she may herself may be a survivor.
Johnny Depp was very credibly accused by his ex-wife of severe domestic violence. She provided evidence, the police documented bruises on her face, there were pictures of shattered glass and documented texts over years that show Depp being abusive toward his then-wife. There were medical records and pictures that showed Depp cut off the tip of his finger to scrawl hateful messages about his wife in their home.
The thing is, Johnny Depp is someone we on the left like, he is one of our own, and we believe the women until the accusations begin to point toward men we respect, admire, and men who are part of our tribe.
When pressed on the issue, Rowlings said, “based on our understanding of the circumstances,” she and the other filmmakers working on the project are “genuinely happy” with the decision to cast Depp. What she’s is also saying is that she does not believe the woman.
When Johnny Depp’s ex-wife accused him of abusing her, many were quick to assume that she was making a false report. The statistics are clear, only about 2 percent of domestic violence reports are false, that is on par with other crimes. People were quick to say she was only doing it for the money, but she actually spoke out about the abuse she suffered after the settlement was finalized. She donated her entire divorce settlement to charity.
This is not a new phenomenon. In 2010, when we on the left were rather smitten with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange for leaking documents detailing government surveillance programs and the like, there were strong figures on the left who refused to believe the woman who said Assange raped her.
Assange is holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to escape prosecution for a rape a woman accused him of committing in Sweden. In May of this year, Swedish investigators closed the rape investigation because it could not legally proceed without officially notifying Assange of the charges and as he sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy, they could not give such a notice.
In 2010 two high profile liberal men came to Assange’s defense. Both Keith Olberman and Michael Moore chose, unequivocally, do not believe the woman. Moore falsely characterized the rape allegation as being simply a case of a condom that broke. He tried to explain away the accusation of the man he sought to support by arguing that in Sweden it is considered rape if you are having consensual sex but the condom breaks.
That was simply untrue. British extradition hearing documents showed that a woman accused Assange of forcibly having unprotected sex with a woman against her will. She also accused him of raping her while she slept. Moore called the case “hooey.” Moore created a conspiracy theory that the major corporations and governments were out to get Assange for his good work.
Moore made all of these claims on Olberman’s show, and he did not correct them. Olberman let the falsehoods stand as truth. Olberman himself retweeted a link to an article that incorrectly accused the rape victim of being connected with the CIA, furthering Moore’s conspiracy theory defense of Assange.
Like in cases of domestic violence, cases of falsely reported rape and sexual assault are highly uncommon. Only around 2% of accusations of sexual abuse are false. It is statistically much more reasonable to believe the women.
In addition to the rarity of false reporting, there is the fact that both domestic violence and sexual assault are severely underreported. There are many reasons why women do not report abuse they suffer; one significant reason is that no one believes them. Estimates show that 1 in 3 women will experience domestic violence with 1 in 4 experiencing severe abuse.
Sexual assault statistics are similarly disturbing with 1 in 4 women experiencing sexual assault in their lifetime and 1 in 6 experiencing attempted or completed rape. Of that vast number of victims, only 28 percent report their assault to the police.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) historically, it seems, said four words in response to allegations against then-Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. Those four words were empowering to countless women who had remained silent for years. He said, “I believe the women.”
As liberals, we believe the women, just so long as the fingers are pointing right. We do not want to believe the women when the accusations point inward. The hypocrisy on the right is so blatant that it becomes easy for us to let ours slide by unnoticed.
It is easy to see the glaring hypocrisy of Roy Moore and Donald Trump. Recent events have shown how difficult it really is to believe the women truly. Liberals cringed when accusations about Representative John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) surfaced, liberals cringed.
This social reckoning is rocking our culture, leaving no industry untouched. From Hollywood to Washington to Silicon Valley, there is a tidal wave of truth crashing. Liberals are grappling with the challenge of the moral high ground on this issue, the challenge of believing the women and what that requires.
While liberals grapple, make mistakes, and try to make them right, those on the right prefer to ignore the issue altogether, enabling such abuses. There is no greater picture of hypocrisy then Republicans denouncing Roy Moore while supporting Donald Trump.
Rape culture is fed by our collective disbelief. Violence against women is emboldened by our knee-jerk reaction to believe the abusers, particularly when they are on our own team. But the tide is changing, and daily we are asked: “do you believe the women?”
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