Why do we still refuse to believe sexual assault victims?

You’ve probably noticed an increase in media reports of famous men being accused of varying degrees of sexual violence, ranging from sexual harassment to sexual assault to rape.

If you’ve been reading the news reports and following the reaction on social media, you’ve probably heard people saying that the accused persons deserve due process.

Or perhaps you’ve heard people say that we should wait until we have the full story before we pass judgement. After all, some woman have falsely accused men of rape.

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Here’s why the idea of due process doesn’t work in this case.

According to a 2002 study by C. A. Rennison, 63% of sexual assaults go unreported. Only 37% of women report when they’re sexually assaulted. That’s only a third.

A 2006 study by Heenan & Murray showed that 2.1% of sexual assault cases end up being false reports.

A 2009 study by Lonsway, Archambault & Lisak put that number at 7.1%, and a 2010 study by Lisak et al. put the number between the two at 5.9%.

So, we have somewhere between 2.1% and 7.1% of sexual assault cases are false reports. In other words between 92.9% and 97.9% of sexault assault cases aren’t made up. And that’s for reported assault.

Remember, only 37% of sexual assault cases end up being reported, so that’s 2.1%–7.1% of only a third of actual sexualt assaults. If every woman reported sexual assault, false reports would make up between 0.7% and 2.4%.

In reality, between 97.6% and 99.3% of sexual assaults are not false reports. If someone claims to have been sexually assaulted, odds are pretty high that they were telling the truth.

In fact, when you think about it, if someone accused of sexual assault claims to be innocent, they’re far more likely to be lying than the accuser is.

But we still insist on giving the accused the benefit of the doubt. We insist on hearing their side of the story and on their receiving due process.

But what does due process look like regarding sexual assault? Asking the accused if he did it? Of course, he’s going to say no. Then what?

How can the victim present evidence of the sexual assault they experienced? Photos? Video? Witness statements? DNA?

Expecting victims to prove they were assaulted is unrealistic, especially if it was a traumatic experience, or they didn’t realize it was assault until years later, or they were afraid for their job, education, or life.

Current odds of winning the Lotto 6/49 jackpot are 0.00000715%. If someone told you that if you bought a lottery ticket, your chance of winning was 99.3%, would you buy a ticket? What if your chance was only 97.6%?

Why are we still refusing to believe sexual assault victims?


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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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