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I don't believe in We Believe You

(142 Posts)
PoochSmooch Tue 20-Dec-16 11:02:31

No, settle down, I totally do!

But I got into a terrific argument with an old friend over this the other day. He thinks it's a terrible campaign, an injustice to men, and an invitation to miscarriages of justice.

I tried to put the viewpoint that actually, there's no legal weight to it at all, that it makes no difference to the legal process if people not involved in it decide that they believe the person who says they've been raped or assaulted. But it's a kind, human thing to do in a world that tends to blame women for being raped, and to disbelieve them without compelling evidence outwith their own ability to know whether they consented or not.

I tried to explain that women in general don't lie about rape, that there's very little motivation to do so, and conversely there is much more motivation to lie about having raped someone. I wheeled out some of the stats on the under-reporting of rape, the reasons why that happens, and what I see as the need to address that by talking about how we treat rape.

He was adamant - rape can only ever be treated as a 50/50 he said/she said situation, with equal weight being given to the possibility that either person may be lying. It is harmful towards men to believe anything else. People should never take sides by believing women, because that is unfair to men. It then came out that he thought the word "rape" was far too "harsh" a word to use for any encounter other than a stranger in a dark alley - so basically there is "real" rape and "just date rape". He really squirmed when I directly asked "do you think it is common for women to lie about rape", but I got the sense that this is what he believes.

I was so lost in the debate to be honest. I find it a struggle to think that someone could object so vociferously to the simple act of telling someone that you believe that what she says happened to her, happened to her.

We parted friends, but I was like, fuck, I wonder how many other people think like this? What would you have done in my shoes? What arguments would you have used? Is "We Believe You" unjustly harmful, when set against the harm caused by rape being so woefully under-reported, under-prosecuted and rarely resulting in any kind of punishment?

SpeakNoWords Tue 20-Dec-16 11:21:00

You're a better women than me, as I'm not sure I'd have parted as friends tbh.

I might have pursued the "most women lie" thing further, despite his discomfort, and tried to establish why he believes that women are prone to lying about consent. Does he think all his female relatives would behave that way, for example?

cherrycrumblecustard Tue 20-Dec-16 11:23:55

Well, don't hate me but Mayella Ewell (is it? A while since I read it) would we have believed her?

Backingvocals Tue 20-Dec-16 11:24:39

I actually don't like "We believe you" and I never use it. You can be very concerned about women's safety and the issue with (some) male sexual violence and concerned about the victim blaming that goes on around rape without going down this route which tbh, I find unhelpful.

M0stlyHet Tue 20-Dec-16 11:24:53

I found with a friend's husband that the thing that finally got through to him was to point out that the Home Office's own statistics (that well-known hot bed of radical feminism) showed that as a man he was more likely to be anally raped by another man than to be falsely accused of rape by a woman. Seemed to get through to him in a way that none of the other arguments (I'd tried all of the above) did.

Also I'd be inclined (although it's a bit of a dubious debating strategy) to make it personal - ask him how he would feel about the situation if that anal rape had been perpetrated by someone on the fringe of his acquaintance group who'd offered him a sofa to sleep on after he'd missed the last train after a night out drinking. Would it somehow be less rape because he'd voluntarily gone into the man's house rather than being raped down a dark alley? That the violence had been the other man's body weight, suddenly on top of him when he'd been peacefully sleeping, rather than at knife point, say?

PhilODox Tue 20-Dec-16 11:28:27

Great post mostlyhet

PoochSmooch Tue 20-Dec-16 11:28:34

You're right that I should have pushed that further, speak. It was late, I was tired. I don't know what he'd say about female relatives. He's gay, by the way, if that's relevant.

I don't know who that is, cherry. I assume someone who possibly lied about rape?

SpeakNoWords Tue 20-Dec-16 11:29:16

cherry I'm not sure that referencing a fictional character is helpful.

I would believe anyone who said they were raped/sexually assaulted. If it were then made clear that it was impossible for that to have happened, then I would at that point change my mind. That, I think, is what most of us do for other types of crime, is it not?

PoochSmooch Tue 20-Dec-16 11:30:04

oops, more posts.

What do you find unhelpful about it, backing?

Those are great ideas, mostly, I did touch on "more likely to be raped yourself", but I don't think I pressed that enough.

M0stlyHet Tue 20-Dec-16 11:30:44

Cherry - as I remember it, there is a real rape in the book - when Maria finally breaks down on the stand and admits she lied, it turns out she was being repeatedly incestuously raped by her father, and came on to Tom Robinson because she wanted to know what sex would feel like with a man she found attractive - then lied when he rejected her. Interestingly, Harper Lee's fictional version is close to the complicated and messy reasons the Home office study did reveal for the rare instances of false accusations.

But I think the whole point about "we believe you" is not that women never lie, but that it's the only crime where the default assumption is that the person bringing the complaint is lying. We know that false burglary reports are sometimes made for insurance reasons, or that occasionally a teenager might make up a mugging to cover up having dropped his phone down the drain on the way back from a drunken night out - but that is not people's knee-jerk, immediate response to someone saying they were burgled or mugged. "We believe you" is simply an attempt to redress this balance.

user1475253854 Tue 20-Dec-16 11:32:30

I think a lot of people think like your friend. Ched Evans' girlfriend Natasha Massey, for example, didn't think what he was accused of was "real" rape as to her that's a stranger grabbing you in an alley.

There's still this idea that so many women lie about rape and ruin men's lives when most of the time it's the men that ruin women's lives by raping them and the women go on to be destroyed by a trial/being in the news if it's a high-profile man. And then, more often than not, don't get a conviction because it wasn't "real" rape to the jury and they wheeled out rape myth after rape myth and then everyone says she was lying all along and he's an innocent man who's been wrongly accused. It's a wonderful system.

ChocChocPorridge Tue 20-Dec-16 11:32:56

Yeah. Blow that. In my opinion we need to be more judgmental of the men that are accused of rape - perhaps then they'll be sure that they're not raping someone before they put their penises in them.

I've heard plenty men boasting of getting a woman drunk so they can persuade her to do things she wouldn't have done sober. It's despicable behaviour. I've never heard a woman reporting that as rape, even though it absolutely, clearly is - they blame themselves for being stupid instead.

I think that men should be as scared of raping someone as women are of being raped - perhaps then they'll learn to control themselves (not all men, obviously - nods to the peanut gallery - I know many men who would be horrified at the idea of having sex with a pass out drunk woman - but I've also caught men buying doubles when asked for singles, and slipping shots into pints for their dates too)

WalkerCreeps Tue 20-Dec-16 11:33:46

Ready to get lamed here but I agree with some of your friends points and disagree with others. I also agree with some of your points and disagree with others.

I disagree with your friends points about thee being different levels of rape, date rape, alley tape bla blah blah, that's a load of bullshit. I agree that you can't just believe that a man has raped someone until proven guilty.

However, rape is usually difficult to prove as usually it doesn't take place infront of loads of witnesses. So it's the woman's word against the man's vice versa. In times past there were fewer convictions as rape wS difficult to prove for all sorts of reasons, it is getting better but not quite there yet. Inspite of this, I still think it's dangerous to just accept that a man (a specific man) has raped a woman just on her word alone.

I disagree with your theory that here is little motivation for a woman to lie about being raped. I can think of all different reasons why a woman might think this is a good idea.

I likewise disagree that there is 'more' motivation for a man to lie that he raped someone, even if he didn't. That just doesn't make sense. I can only think of a tiny motivation to do this.

i agree with all the other points you made but that doesn't answer the question of wether 'we believe you campaign is right'.

If a woman says she has been raped, I have no reason to doubt her, however, if she says 'I have been raped by X', then I have to exercise caution until X has been proven guilty.

TheSparrowhawk Tue 20-Dec-16 11:39:16

'I disagree with your theory that here is little motivation for a woman to lie about being raped. I can think of all different reasons why a woman might think this is a good idea.'

I'd be interested to hear the reasons you think a woman might want to have her vagina photographed by strangers and have to stand up in court and talk about the types of sex she enjoys.

'I likewise disagree that there is 'more' motivation for a man to lie that he raped someone, even if he didn't. That just doesn't make sense. I can only think of a tiny motivation to do this.'
The OP said there was more motivation for a man to lie about not raping someone, ie for him to say he didn't rape someone when he did.

MilkTwoSugarsThanks Tue 20-Dec-16 11:41:38

Tbh I don't agree with the campaign either.

No I don't believe that many women lie about rape, but I do think there are motives there to do it.

I do think that blindly believing someone based on nothing more than press reports is wrong.

At the end of the day we do not know, should keep our noses out and remain impartial.

TheGruffaloMother Tue 20-Dec-16 11:45:23

It then came out that he thought the word "rape" was far too "harsh" a word to use for any encounter other than a stranger in a dark alley - so basically there is "real" rape and "just date rape".

This is a very common view unfortunately. He'd have had to be an extremely good friend for me to have been able to part as friends after hearing this though.

SpeakNoWords Tue 20-Dec-16 11:46:01

MilkTwoSugars do you believe someone if they tell you they've been mugged?

WalkerCreeps Tue 20-Dec-16 11:47:10

I think MilkTwo has worded it much better than I. Their short post has summed up my long post.

MilkTwoSugarsThanks Tue 20-Dec-16 11:48:35

I'd be interested to hear the reasons you think a woman might want to have her vagina photographed by strangers and have to stand up in court and talk about the types of sex she enjoys.

The problem with that is that you're assuming that all allegations get that far. The (few) women who lie will say that they don't want to report it, that it's too traumatic, because they know it is for genuine victims. They will just make sure word gets round that X has raped them and with a campaign like "We Believe You" behind them the damage is done.

stitchglitched Tue 20-Dec-16 11:49:01

We Believe You is simply a campaign to take rape victims seriously and not start from a position of doubt or victim blaming. It is massively needed in order to shift the appalling way victims are treated, in a way that doesn't happen with other crimes. Your friend can relax though OP, the likelihood is that most men, even the guilty ones, will never even see the inside of a courtroom, let alone be convicted. The odds are still very much in their favour.

And Mayella Ewell was raped and abused repeatedly, by her father.

MilkTwoSugarsThanks Tue 20-Dec-16 11:49:27

SpeakNoWords - not automatically, no.

M0stlyHet Tue 20-Dec-16 11:49:31

Walker - but no-one is suggesting "we believe you" as a legal standard of evidence in court. We're simply suggesting that outside of court, it might be nice to extend rape victims we talk to in everyday life the same courtesy we extend to victims of burglary and muggings - that of taking their story seriously rather than automatically dismissing it.

Incidentally if the Home Office stats are right that only 3% of rape accusations are false, then there's an interesting point about the psychology of belief. If you subscribe to a Bayesian model of belief formation and revision, then everyone has prior probabilities (their best guess about the truth of a situation based on the general way things tend to be) before hearing the precise details of that particular situation and adjusting their beliefs. So the person sitting in the jury on a trial of an alleged mugger might go in there with the belief that most alleged muggings have actually taken place, and therefore it will take some pretty strong evidence to convince them that this wasn't really a mugging (such as the police finding the supposedly stolen phone in the bottom of the canal where the supposed victim had dropped it).

For this reason, there's going to be a big difference in how plausible the man's story has to be if the jury believes that 50% of rape accusations are false compared to if they believe that only 3% of rape accusations are false. Puts a whole new complexion on the idea of reasonable doubt, might open the way to more prosecution barristers asking "what made you think you did have consent for this act in these particular circumstances?" It might even stop juries thinking that "I tripped and fell erect penis first into her vagina" was a plausible enough story to introduce "reasonable doubt" (yes, a man really did successfully use this as a defence recently). Because it's not just her word against his word at the moment, at the moment, frankly the man can say "well, the dog ate my homework" and this will introduce "reasonable doubt". And part of this is because juries go into rape cases thinking it's 50-50, which given the stats on the percentage of men who will admit to rape, and the stats on the percentage of women who make false accusations, simply is not a sensible set of prior probabilities.

tribpot Tue 20-Dec-16 11:50:26

Isn't we believe you as much about saying we believe the victim of the crime as anything else? If your house is burgled, people's first instinct isn't to assume that you are lying, even though people certainly do lie about being burgled to make false insurance claims. That's not even a he said/she said, there is no other side to be heard (unless you're saying your neighbour burgled you, but all rape victims aren't accusing a named individual - although the fact it is much more commonly perpetrated by someone the victim knows does make it a 'named' crime more often that it isn't).

But your friend is saying that if a man raped him on a date, that isn't real rape? Why not?

DeviTheGaelet Tue 20-Dec-16 11:51:55

Yuck. If you hadn't said he was gay I'd think he'd be the kind of man to do coercive sex not realising it's rape. Not sure I could stay friends with him.
I think men don't realise just how many women have been raped/sexually assaulted (either because it's taboo or because they do the mental equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears and going "la-la-la-can't hear you) so they think it's this fictitious "lying bitch" rather than their friend, mother, sister, girlfriend whatever.
I think I'deserve ask the whether it would be wrong to believe a victim of a different crime (e.g. theft because there's an insurance fraud angle to suggest a victim might lie)? If the answer is different then why.

MilkTwoSugarsThanks Tue 20-Dec-16 11:52:17

We Believe You is simply a campaign to take rape victims seriously and not start from a position of doubt or victim blaming.

We Are Listening And Here To Support You would be more accurate and one that I would totally support.

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