T O P I C R E V I E W
Member # 48854
posted 02-24-2012 05:17 AM
THIS IS POTENTIALLY TRIGGERING!!! This is me trying to figure out how I should react to accusations of a man I know who was accused of attacking a child. I believe the accusations to be false, but I feel like I'm bordering on doing the same thing as people who distrust rape victims.
I'm not sure if this belongs here, but it seems like it would...if it doesn't, please move it. My mom has been married twice-her first husband, a man (I'll call him Ron) I've known ever since I can remember, ended up asking her for a divorce about two years into their marriage when he started realizing he was gay. Even after she got remarried she stayed friends with Ron, and we would go say hello to him-my mom, my brother and I. He was gay, I knew that. He had a boyfriend most of the time I knew him, (calling him Charlie) named Charlie. His sexual orientation never mattered, and still doesn't, and he never went near me or my brother beyond the same kind of a hug I'd get from my friends and family. A few years back, Charlie decided he was going to be straight, got married to a woman, etc. Ron ended up with a different man (ironically, also named Ron! And I'm not joking here, they both have the same first name, so the family friend will be Ron V. and the boyfriend is Ron J.) and they've been together for about three years. Ron V. closed his old shop and got a new shop with Ron J. He and my mom have kept in touch over the years. Which is why she was flabbergasted and disbelieving when the newspaper in that area reported that he had been arrested for doing things to a nine year old boy, and that the FBI have been searching for him for six years. Now...for starters, my mom tracked him down in all of ten minutes on the internet when we went back to our old town to visit. Not that hard. So the six years thing rings false. Apparently, the warrant was only issued last November, which also makes me question, again, if they were looking for him for that long, it wasn't that hard to find him, and if they knew where he was, why was the warrant only issued a few months ago? The act supposedly happened in 2006...in 2006, he and Charlie were going through that breakup. Charlie basically accused Ron of turning him gay, essentially went through a great big thing, badmouthed Ron to a lot of people...and coincidentally, the boy who was molested? Is a relative of Charlie's. The police report says that Ron was touching the boy and kept doing so until the (nine year old, at the time) boy forcibly removed the (thirty five at the time) man's hand from him. There are no records, anywhere, of something being filed against Ron for doing anything to anyone other than this, and I'm doubtful whether someone who would do this to one child would stop at one child. My brother and I were around Ron several times without my mother. So was a boy a year younger than me, a friend of ours whose mother had known Ron when he was married to my mom. Ron never approached any of us or did anything off-color. I thought at first that maybe he wouldn't go near us because of our mother, but that wouldn't explain why he wouldn't go near our friend, and if he would be willing to do stuff to a relative of his significant other, he would be willing to do the same to children of someone who isn't even his S.O. anymore. But it is very easy for an older relative in a position of authority over a 15 year old, religious, boy to tell him that he needs to say that this man did this certain thing to him, that this man is evil and bad and that by saying this, he's getting him put in jail. Not to mention, one of my biggest confusions is that I hardly remember when I was nine. When I was fifteen, I would think to when I was nine and tell you that the Twin Towers went down that year. I was in fourth grade, and this was my teacher's name. I couldn't tell you if I ever helped my grandparents with their paper route, or who my friends were at the time. I couldn't tell you what I studied in school, whether or not I got recess, and if you asked me to identify the teacher from that year if she's lined up with other teachers from that school, I couldn't do it. And of me, my brother, and our friend, I can tell you none of us could have forcibly removed the hand of someone four times as old as we were. Basically, I don't think this is true. I think that Charlie made up a story and played on his relative's religion (I met Charlie only a little, but he would mention how his family went to church regularly and was very disapproving of him, and he himself, when he broke up with Ron, became *very* religious) and youth to get him to say that Ron did this to him, because he wants to distance himself from Ron and either honestly believes or wants others to believe that Ron turned him gay. I don't see how the FBI could have looked for him for six years and not found him until now, because as I said, he's not hidden. My mom typed in his name and town and got the name and address of the shop he runs with his current S.O. And I just don't believe that Ron could have done this. But...how do I deal with this? I worry a little, despite my certainty, that I'm being unfair. It's...I guess, for me, it feels like if I saw a friend of mine in a store. They took their items to the register, put them all up there, and paid for them. And then the police come running shouting "thief" and they're certain they're right and I know they aren't, but I don't want to make a judgement because it feels unfair...like I have to be justified by a court for me to be allowed to believe that.
Member # 79774
posted 02-24-2012 08:15 AM
Kawani, I can understand where you're coming from. I don't know any of the people involved, so don't want to even begin to make an assessment of the truth here, but I do want to sound a few notes of caution.
I understand what you say when you say about this man seeming never to have harmed any other young person. I do think it's worth remembering, though, that people who Do harm children tend to be very careful about it. They don't harm every child they come into contact with, they choose very deliberately children who they think might be more vulnerable, perhaps children without such good home support, ones who are less likely to have a safe and reliable adult to tell. Sometimes there appears to be no rhyme or reason why one child and not another - sometimes people who harm children have their very own peculiar list of rules. People who harm children can often have a reputation as a person who treats children very well, as that's how they gain both children's and adults' trust and gain access to children. Often, too, children who have been harmed haven't told anyone, so no-one knows that there actually Are other victims. I feel that your assessment of memory at nine years old in general isn't sound. Sure, that may be true for you, and some other people too - but not for everyone. Some people remember some things quite clearly, and are able to specify the time because of having a clear link to something else very time-specific. I hope, too, that you're not suggesting that people don't clearly remember abuse that happened to them as a child? Some adults remember it very clearly at ages younger than 9. Personally, I was abused when I was 9, and I assure you I remembered parts of it very, very clearly when I was 15, 16, 17. On the FBI/newspaper article thing, for a start, I don't know about your local paper, but mine's notoriously rubbish, often printing things that just aren't the real story. With the FBI, who knows, who knows what information they actually had to go on and whether this was remotely a priority or not. I don't think your analogy works, because in your analogy, you would have useful evidence to the police, you Know that no crime was committed, because you Saw. In the real-life case, you have no such real knowledge, only a belief that the person you know couldn't have done this, and some suspicious-looking circumstances. Those things can certainly mean something, but it's very, very different from Knowing. I know you're not meaning to doubt abuse survivors, but what you say about the boy, the adult and the hand reminded me a little of the kind of things people say when they don't want to believe it. I think you need to be a bit careful with that, because for any of us who weren't there, it can only be speculation, and many of us who Are survivors have aspects to our story that make people go "...but that's improbable/but X was stronger than Y...", and as Survivors we're just like "well I don't know the answer to your questions, I don't know Why or How, I just know what happened to me, I'm telling you the truth and you don't believe me..." I'd also ask you to try to be really sensitive around this. It's natural to want to protect a friend we believe is innocent. I understand where your doubts of the young man's story are coming from. I'd like to impress on you, though, that whatever the truth of what actually happened, the young man is Somebody's victim. If you're right about the allegation not being true, then the young man is being manipulated, forced or coerced by someone into making it. People who experience that as a young person are often incredibly damaged by it, into the future. Edit: just to pull my thoughts together a bit: Kawani, personally, I think it's ok for you to say that in your experience of Ron, he never did anything like this, and you didn't experience him as someone who could or would do something like this. That's talking about your own personal experience and viewpoint. I also think it's ok to say that you have doubts about the allegation because of the young man's links to someone who may want to hurt Ron, and you suspect that the young man is being coerced/forced/manipulated. As a Survivor, though, I feel that your other reasons for doubt are really not sound at all, and as you touched on, truthfully, they do remind me very much of typical disbelief of victims. I'd like to work towards a world where those kinds of disbelief are less commonly repeated. [ 02-24-2012, 08:34 AM: Message edited by: Redskies ]
Member # 48854
posted 02-24-2012 08:10 PM
Exactly...that's what I want, is a perspective on how i'm reacting from someone outside this situation. The last thing I want is to hurt or offend people, and while my instinct is to defend Ron, I don't know where the boundary is, where it stops being me not believing this to be true versus me directly disbelieving the victim. Basically, I don't know how to understand and acknowledge that boy was victimized while still defending Ron...so essentially, I believe that boy is a victim but that my friend isn't a perpetrator.
I know people do remember things from when they were young, especially something like that... I just...mostly I feel like I need a real reason to believe Ron wouldn't so this, like my belief in his innocence isn't enough to justify me thinking this. I think i'm trying to justify what I believe, and since i wasn't there, I can't, and it worries me. I don't think he did anything, but there are very few people who know exactly what happened, and I am not one of them. If he did, then I want him in jail. Full stop. But if he didn't, then he has to convince a jury of his innocence, and it worries me, it seems like if i can't prove his innocence in my own mind, that he can't prove it to a jury. Obviously he knows more about this than I do, but it's all confusing.
Member # 56822
posted 03-12-2012 10:09 AM
If there were no cases of people who later admitted that they made things up, I think there would be *less* (note I say less, not no) people suspicious of rape or molestation cases. I think there are very few cases where things are made up, but the consequences are just so great that we tend to feel a psychological, subconscious need to take sides, even lightly, for those who know the alleged perpetrator or victim...
Fact: rape or molestation is an abuse and should be met headlong wherever it is come across. Fact: it causes huge damage to those abused. Fact: things get murky and into "no-one wins" territory when there is doubt, even though I think the majority of the time the abuse is true. There is always the nagging feeling for outsiders who know the alleged perpetrator that the person we thought we knew we didn't know well enough... [ 03-12-2012, 10:10 AM: Message edited by: WesLuck ]
Member # 79774
posted 03-16-2012 10:33 AM
Wes, I realise you mean well here. I'm just a little jumpy about this kind of thing, and I do apologise if it comes over as too jumpy, and you get the "but that's not what I meant...!" feeling. I guess I just feel it's worth saying anyway. It's more of a "these are the thoughts I had" from this, rather than me thinking that it's necessary to point this all out to you personally.
I tense up a bit whenever someone talks about made-up claims making it harder for true claims to be believed. The trouble is, that kind of point is most often made by people who actually want to de-legitimise some aspect of assault or victims/survivors, and often it's done under a veil of claiming to care about "real" victims/survivors. A lot of nuances tend to be missed when those kinds of people talk about this. For a start, best estimates of the percentage of allegations that are untrue is about 2-4% (I know I read that somewhere legitimate, but can't remember where, sorry for the lack of a reliable citation) - about the same as other crimes. I've seen rubbish written by assault-deniers who pluck figures like 40% apparently out of the air, uncited. Something that can confuse the picture is that police departments in different countries often have figures that Look very different to the 2-4%, because they categorise things differently. For example, police might categorise a claim as "unfounded" if they can't find any evidence that would enable a prosecution in that legal system, or perhaps if the police involved aren't the greatest with the issue and just don't believe the person. An "unfounded" allegation is very different to what I'll call an "untrue" one; yet people often use the statistics for "unfounded" as if all these were "untrue". (Warning - nasty rape apologism in this paragraph.) I'm also jumpy about "made-up claims" because I'm sick of the number of times I've read some a*wipe claim angrily that nagging one's girlfriend for sex 30 times until 2am and then she doesn't say no is Totally Not Rape, because Upstanding Dude Totally Stopped Every Time She Said No, and Lying B*ch Is Crying Rape For No Reason, Yet Another Fake Malicious Claim, Flaky Woman Can't Make Up Her Mind. And yes, I gendered that, because every time I've ever read that sentiment, it was a man writing about a woman or women in general. I don't believe that untrue allegations are a major cause of people not being believed. People occasionally lie about other crimes, too, ones that carry severe results if someone was wrongly convicted - but when someone says they were mugged or burgled, society doesn't usually have doubt and suspicion as its first response. I find it annoying and a harmful distraction when people spend so much time and energy talking about how to deal with the problem of false accusations so that people are more likely to be believed. It often feels like an excuse so we don't have to talk about why Really society doesn't want to believe it. I don't mean to play down the severity of a false accusation, or the effect on a person falsely accused. I think that a deliberate, malicious false accusation is appalling, and yes, harmful to everyone making a genuine one. I just think that too often when people talk about false accusations, they're being disingenuous, operating off incorrect information, and having an entirely unproductive conversation. I also think there's a world of difference between believing someone's allegation, and using the justice system against the perpetrator without "evidence beyond a reasonable doubt". That's a whole other thorny conversation about how to even begin to make that work - but just wanting to head off another common argument that goes "you want to throw people in jail Just On The Word Of One Other Person?!!" I don't really buy the argument about having to be careful not to ruin an innocent person's life (though that's very true), because even in cases where people absolutely know that someone is guilty, including of very shocking acts, we still hear "but their life will be ruined, it wasn't That Bad, we shouldn't stop them doing all the Other Good Things they do..." I absolutely believe that societies' problem with believing allegations of assault and abuse isn't the small percentage of untrue claims, but that it's too hard for societies to believe it and face up to doing something about it and care enough about the people without enough power who are harmed. In the context of the original post, I also want to flag up that the specific case here involves a young person making an allegation that May be false, where someone close to that young person has an apparent history of a grudge against the accused. I'm uncomfortable with that being framed as "the young person making it up" - if untrue, it's much more likely that it was made up by someone else, and the young person is being coerced or forced into repeating it. That would make the young person a victim, and not in the "mad or evil" (ugh) frame that's often used for people who are thought to have made an allegation up. Conversations about false allegations often ignore some really important things, too: for example, rarely someone may name the wrong person because they're too afraid to name the correct one. A constructive response to this particular issue would not be "clamp down on false allegations!!", but "how can we make it easier, safer and more supported to tell someone, and make sure everyone has someone that they Can tell?" What people who fake-concern and bluster about this topic miss, too, is actually on their side of the coin. False allegations of assault may be made as part of a pattern of emotional and verbal abuse against someone. In the time I've been reading this site, I've read that twice here (by the person who was being abused and who had the accusation made to them); I've also come across it in my personal life, against someone I care about. If people who bluster about false allegations really had any genuine concern and knowledge about the whole topic, they would be talking about emotional abuse and not just "spiteful/evil/crazy/ditzy (usually woma/en, but certainly not always), ruining innocent lives and making it hard for Real victims". I get upset and annoyed that clueless apologists manage to tramp over Everybody - the 95+% of us who accurately report what happened to us, And people who are actually victims of abusive accusations. People behind those kinds of arguments, sometimes they can sound quite reasonable and nice, but they can't possibly give a damn about abuse, and they're certainly not engaging in good-faith thought about how to make the world a better place.
Member # 56822
posted 03-16-2012 10:03 PM
Yes, you would know better than I.
I have never experienced rape or sexual abuse, so do not have any personal experience on it, which I think is the critical thing here. Anyone who hasn't had it happen to them doesn't understand it fully in a personal, emotional sense. You make very pertinent points. I think another of the problems is that we still often blame the one "accusing" rather than the "accused" in rape cases (but not necessarily in other cases), as if it is likely (which it isn't) they made it up. Also, I don't like the confrontational approach for rape or abuse cases either - people who are the accuser (boy I hate that word) in a rape case deserve to have just the judge carefully weigh the case and come to a very careful conclusion (with a tendency to listen to the accuser rather than the accused, although taking into account whether someone else was likely to have done it - who should be prosecuted instead) without the lawyers being able to attack the victim/accuser in court, don't you think? This may be another double standard and we treat physical and mental illnesses a lot differently from each other too (and I have definitely had one of the latter). And we still frequently condone date rape and rapes when the (usually woman) was in a relationship with the accused. While I think this is wrong, I may have internalised the "But they might be making it up!" line of thinking a bit too much with regards to rape and sexual abuse. Society has a long way to go with regards to fair treatment of abuse victims, and even though I can't change society at a whim, I can be responsible for myself. So even if you read nothing else of my post, and you don't like apologists, I would like to apologise to you, Redskies, for unintentionally trivialising a very crucial issue that affects everyone in society in one way or another. And also for hurting your soul and inner core (which is always healing life-long if one has suffered abuse, especially sexual abuse). I feel I have unintentionally hurt you in this case! I thus personally apologise, to you, Redskies! [ 03-16-2012, 10:18 PM: Message edited by: WesLuck ]
Member # 79774
posted 04-10-2012 09:08 PM
Hey, Wes. Sorry you've had to wait a while on this - I've been needing to do some fairly strict self-care and just go with what I feel I can and can't deal with at any given time, and often there hasn't been any apparent rhyme or reason for which category things fall in. Absolutely nothing personal, just my current circumstances.
I think that personal experience does make somewhat of a difference, but not All of a difference. When I talk about this kind of thing, yes, there is personal experience there, but there's also a whole range of reading and awareness that I did for myself around the issue. Of course, I ended up doing that Because of the personal experience, so it kind of all circles round... I do think that if I, or most people who talk about this kind of thing, were talking Just from personal experience and not from the knowledge we'd gathered, the vast majority of us would still be talking from a place of self-blame and completely unaware of the structural/societal role of any of this. I'm not sure I'm the best person to talk about the court/legal side of this - I'm not hugely knowledgeable about legal systems. I do think it's a very tricky thing. I think that perhaps what I'd like to see is more of a disconnection between the offering of personal, practical and societal support to the affected person, and the dealing with an accused person. It's still an imperfect solution, but it's the best I can think of. I can imagine cases where it honestly wouldn't seem ok to me to put a criminal conviction on a person "beyond a reasonable doubt", but where I actually wholly believe the affected person. I'd like it to be possible for society to fully support an affected person in whatever they need to heal without there being the "confirmation" of a guilty verdict. There should be space for more realities of this than "either we convict the accused, or the affected person is lying". Frankly, it wouldn't be surprising if you Had internalised a bit of the "they might be making it up" mindset, because it's Everywhere. Except in feminist or Survivor spaces, it's the dominant discourse around this. That's why I picked up on what you said - it wasn't about you personally, it was part of my commitment to challenging and correcting that discourse wherever I usefully can. In that way, it was a compliment, as I considered you someone capable of being open to what I was saying Oh, btw, my saying "apologists" was referring to "rape apologists" - that is, people who try to find excuses for it, claim that it didn't/doesn't happen (That Much), say it doesn't matter (That Much), blame the person/people it happens/ed to, or refuse to do anything at all to change the societal position on it. I wasn't meaning people who actually apologise generally, and I never put you in the category "rape apologist". Sorry for being unclear there. You didn't upset me personally, so honestly, I'm not sure quite what to do with a personal apology. Perhaps accept it with grace but on behalf of the wider issue? I was wanting to fight the dominant societal attitudes, and not you personally. I saw it more as an unhappy but unsurprising accident that a little of those attitudes had rubbed off on you, and not any personal stuff-up or unpleasantness of your own. And cheers for being a person who can hear the points I'm making. (Oh, and I hear you on the mental illness thing. Member of that club too.)
Member # 56822
posted 04-11-2012 02:31 AM
Thanks for your reply! You made some very good points.
I know apologists didn't mean any kind of apologies. It was just a segue-in to the fact that I was apologising. I was trying to add a little humour, not at or in the subject (which is very serious) but just in my apology. The legal suggestion you made regarding some assistance for people regardless of the verdict is a good one. Also, I think it would be good if the adversarial system for court cases could be changed so there is not such a big focus on "us vs. them". If you have read my post on the "Sex Lives of Australian Women", you would know that I admire greatly those people who have succeeded in coming out the other side after having suffered rape or sexual abuse. That includes you and Heather, and many others. Btw: I'd rather be a person who says sorry a little too much (but still for the right reasons) than to not say sorry when it needs to be said. This doesn't mean that I apologise for my existence, just that if I've made people feel uncomfortable or bad, even if I'm not totally consciously responsible, I'd still like to say sorry and offer some kind words to show good intent. All the best, and thanks for your reply!