On the expendability of rape victims and irresponsible journalism.

Today in “WTF, White Feminists?!” News, Slate’s Amanda Marcotte jumps on another train to Wrongville, siding with a Washington State prosecutor’s decision to arrest an alleged rape victim for refusing to cooperate:

…it seems naive to believe that all you need to work with victims of domestic assault is more outreach. (The charges are against the second man, but the boyfriend is the one who instigated the kidnapping, suggesting that the domestic violence framework is in play here.) Victims have minds of their own, and sometimes no amount of victim outreach or counseling will change their minds.

The victim’s refusal to cooperate is a problem endemic to the prosecution of domestic violence, as I wrote in September. In Queens, N.Y., law enforcement reports that victims recant their testimony in 9 out of 10 cases. It’s not necessarily, as Rose suggests, simply because they are so traumatized by the violence itself that rehashing it with prosecutors feels too overwhelming. Research shows that a victim’s refusal to cooperate with a prosecution is more about her relationship to the abuser. In this particular case, the victim has a long-standing history with one of her attackers, which suggests that she probably doesn’t see this in the same way that someone kidnapped and assaulted by complete strangers would. While there are some interventions that can help reduce the problem of victims who recant out of these complex feelings, there’s no silver bullet of counseling that will get all victims to see things the way prosecutors want them to.

Clearly the only way these women are going to learn is if they’re victimized all over again? This is nonsense. Dangerous nonsense. Dangerous nonsense that will most likely result in fewer victims coming forward, and more rapists walking free.

It’s easy to get caught up in the facts and figures and forget that these are actual human beings, ones who have experienced a horrible trauma. Ones who have to figure out how to deal with that trauma and still attempt to be fully functioning people. What Marcotte and others fail to realize is that for some, the victimization doesn’t end with the rape. Or with pressing charges. Or with a conviction. Some perpetrators can and do continue to torment their victims, even after the final bang of the gavel. And, depending on how powerful said perps are, that torment can be life-threatening.

The sad, unavoidable truth is that we can’t be mad about victims changing their minds when our collective handling of sexual assault victims borders on obscene. Between bizarre laws and thousands of backlogged rape kits and oh!–our time-honored tradition of treating alleged victims like suspects, we should expect more of them to pass on turning to the legal system for help. We should also realize that greenlighting thoughtless clickbait like Marcotte’s only traumatizes people more. Always erring on the side of profit and pageviews means putting some really egregious shit into the world. If that’s a price worth paying, OK, but it’s also understandable that other people who identify as feminists will come for your fucking card.

 

 

5 thoughts on “On the expendability of rape victims and irresponsible journalism.

  1. Thank you. It’s appalling the way the victim in the case was treated and absurd that Marcotte’s solution to the complicated psychological trauma abuse can bring is that arresting THEM for their own experience is somehow a good idea?!? No thanks, I’ll stick with counseling and better support systems.

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