As more and more stories of women’s encounters with Canadian radio host/musician/producer Jian Ghomeshi have come to light (and sparked an investigation by police thanks to at least three women coming forward to file complaints), Emily and I have spent a great deal of time talking about this situation in specific, but assault in general. The other night, I asked:
Why aren’t more women reporting these types of crimes?
After thinking about it for quite a while, Emily gave her answer on the ride to church Sunday morning. She suggested that for some women, it’s a case of not thinking it counts. At least, not for them.
What Emily hit on right away is the lie sexual assault (and sexual predators) tells victims, A lie that says “this isn’t a big deal.” A lie that says:
- It doesn’t “count” if it was (at least initially) consensual.
- It doesn’t “count” if you were just being groomed.
- It doesn’t “count” if you had one too many drinks.
- It doesn’t “count” if you didn’t fight back.
And so, as the lie take root, victims pretend like nothing happened. Or that it wasn’t a big deal. Or that maybe they “deserved” whatever happened.
Predators continue to roam free, while their victims become trapped by their shame-induced silence.
I wonder how many women (and men, for that matter), would speak up if someone told them, “It counts”?
- No matter how things started, it counts.
- No matter how far things progressed, it counts.
- No matter how much (or little) you drank, it counts.
- No matter how much of a fight you put up, it counts.
“You did not ask for this. You should not be silenced. You are not worthless. You do not have to pretend like nothing happened. You are not damaged goods, forgotten or ignored by God, or ‘getting what you deserve.'” (Is It My Fault?, 21)
If we want victims to speak up, we need to help them see the truth. We need to help them see that when assault happens, it counts. Period.