Believe the victim before we protect the accused

If we want women to speak up, we must support them when they do

photo courtesy End Rape on Campus

In an era where the #MeToo movement is prevalent and more and more light is shone upon victims of sexual assault, one would believe we would see a larger number of rapists being convicted and jailed for their crimes.

Despite this, it appears that we as a society still do not see rape or the injustices done to women as a serious problem.

Recently, the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, announced new sweeping rules pertaining to sexual assault in schools. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 states that “…to promote the purpose of Title IX by requiring recipients to address sexual harassment, assisting and protecting victims of sexual harassment and ensuring that due process protections are in place for individuals accused of sexual harassment.”

This proposal was influenced by the Kavanaugh trials, in which Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

While the proposal is open to public comment, which would in turn be the deciding factor of whether or not the proposal is added to Title IX, the idea that DeVos would suggest giving more protection to those accused of sexual assault is appalling.

As we try to shed light on victims of sexual assault and their experiences, our actions and how we treat those accused do not match up with our words.

We give those accused of sexual assault the benefit of the doubt before we even consider the thoughts or feelings of the victim.

Often times in cases of sexual assault, the first thing brought up is the concept of the alleged rapist being falsely accused. The public is concerned with potentially sending an innocent person to jail, and I do not fault them for this.

In the American judicial system, there is the concept of the accused being “innocent until proven guilty,” and this holds up in most cases. However, when we give the accused the benefit of the doubt, this does not mean that the victim is automatically a liar.

In March of 2016, Brock Turner, after sexually assaulting an unconscious girl behind a dumpster, received a sentence of six months, followed by three years probation. He was released after only serving three months.

Despite the overall public outrage and the general consensus that Turner was guilty, the judge still granted him a significantly lighter sentence.

The judge cited Turner’s age, the fact that both he and the victim were inebriated, and not wanting to ruin Turner’s future.

All of these factors combined show just how much leniency is given to those accused of sexual assault, and how little concern we have towards the situations the victims go through.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women will be victims of sexual assault while in college.  

In 2012, the Enliven Project came out with the statistics regarding rape on a national level. Out of every 1,000 rape instances, only 10 percent were ever reported. Out of these 100, only 30 percent ever faced trial, and only 10 percent were ever jailed.

Out of every 100 reported instances, only two are falsely accused.

Society does not make it easy for victims of sexual assault to come forward. Often, they are shamed, ridiculed, or called liars. Even after the Kavanaugh trials, Dr. Ford continues to be harassed and questioned by conservatives from all sides.

To me, it appears that we already protect the rights of the accused more than we protect those who have been assaulted, and if we continue to disregard the victims, we will simply continue to show the lack of care we have towards women.

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