Rape survivors are innocent until proved guilty

Content warning: this post discusses rape and rape apologism

It’s been an interesting few weeks regarding accountability for rapist. People believed Stoya and other women when they said they had been raped by James Deen, and took action on Deen. Serial rapist Daniel Holtzclaw has been convicted for preying on vulnerable Black women, hoping that misogynoir would let him get away with it indefinitely. And even the rat-faced embassy-botherer Julian Assange is set to face questioning at last.

But with small gains comes a kickback, and of course those who would like to help rapists keep on raping have been out in force. They feel sad that rapists are having their careers ruined, and people are believing the words of survivors. They’re saying the usual horrible shit.

Today, I’d like to talk about one of the favourite tired lines of the rape apologist: “innocent until proved guilty”. Now, notwithstanding the fact that “innocent” is never a verdict that crops up in court, nor the fact that even the figures for men admitting to having raped someone vastly outstrip the conviction rate for rape, those who cling to this framework are making a right mess out of their own logic.

See, when people defend rapists, they like to rely on a very boring narrative: “women lie”. They like to pretend that the accuser is making it up to ruin a man’s life for funsies, because that’s apparently a nicer thing to think than that chap they like is a rapist. And when they do that, they are therefore accusing women who speak out about their rapes of perverting the course of justice, of perjury, of serious, serious offences.

Rape apologists are accusing those who speak out about their rapes of criminal activity.

Rape survivors are innocent until proved guilty.

If you’re one of those people who thinks you’re not a rape apologist and just cares about due process, &c., &c., then ask yourself why you’ll cry “innocent until proved guilty” while defending a man accused of rape, but never for the accuser, who you are implicitly (or sometimes explicitly) accusing of perverting the course of justice.

There are consequences to the accusations that rape apologists like to fling about. These accusations can ruin a woman’s life.

First and foremost, the accusations that rape apologists like to bandy about are a great tool for keeping survivors quiet (and therefore helping rapists get away with it). It holds a fear of not being believed… and a fear of severe consequences.

And these consequences can escalate into real-world tragedies, for example Eleanor de Freitas, who took her life when a man launched a private prosecution against her after police decided not to pursue the rape she reported.

The accusations that rape apologists make against survivors can literally kill.

When someone speaks out about their rape, whether in reporting it to the police, or publicly naming their rapist, or starting an accountability process, or any way they see fit to deal with it, they are innocent of lying until proved guilty.

Let’s reclaim this war cry from the rape apologists, and declare that survivors are innocent until proved guilty. Let’s throw it in their faces, and honk like sea lions at them, asking for evidence that this alleged perversion of the course of justice occured, urging them to be reasonable rather than levelling serious accusations. It cuts both ways, and their weapon can be wielded in our hands. Let’s bore them silly until that fucking hackneyed cliche stops cropping up in discussions of rape.

Survivors of rape are innocent until proved guilty. 


5 responses to “Rape survivors are innocent until proved guilty

  • talkchatter

    Everyone in my opinion, is innocent until proven otherwise. People lie, fact but people also tell the truth. The biggest problem when it comes to proving or disproving that a rape has occurred, is proof . Even more so with rape it is a case of he said, she said (and variants in gender as we know men get raped)

    • stavvers

      yep. which is why the justice system is unfit for purpose regarding rape. Much better to take survivors seriously–I feel like the Deen case is pretty exemplary for how to deal with rape tbh.

  • mhairi

    The basic problem is that the only evidence of whether a person consented or not can come from that person. Yet that evidence is routinely disregarded when the rapist uses a “consent” defence” in favour of circumstantial evidence either for or against whether consent was in place.

    “The justice system assumes women to be in a perpetual state of consent, and it is for the crown to demonstrate the victim withdrew their consent and that a crime occurred. One major change which would instantly transform the manner in which rape is treated is to completely turn that on its head. That women do not consent to sexual activity – that if a woman reports rape, and there is evidence to suggest that sexual intercourse took place that is sufficient for conviction. A consent defence could still be lodged, however it would require evidence from the defence that the defendant had obtained consent rather than evidence from the crown that the victim denied it.”

    http://www.2ndcouncilhouse.co.uk/blog/2011/08/04/65/

  • Jib Halyard

    Anyone accused of any crime is “innocent until proven guilty”. That applies equally to murderers, thieves and rapists, as well as to people formally charged with making false complaints (on the rare occasions such a thing actually occurs with those alleging rape). Sometimes, people claiming to care about “due process, &c., &c.” actually DO care about due process, for ALL crimes.

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