Abusing the abused

Trent Ernst, Editor

A few weeks ago, American politics hit what might be a new low, with a video surfacing of one of the candidates discussing how he used his power and fame to sexually abuse women.

Because, of course, it was brought into the political sphere, the topic quickly became a hot button issue, with people all along the political spectrum feeling the need to make a comment.

With the topic of Trump’s sexual mores (or lack thereof) under such scrutiny, a number of women came forward to say that they had experienced such abuse at his hands.

And, since it was the political arena, they, too, became subjects of intense criticism and commentary, with some people supporting them, and others saying they were just “playing victims” in an attempt to gain their five minutes of fame.

And once again, we fall into the trap of blaming the victim. Of abusing the abused.

Yes, there is a chance that these women had no interaction with Trump whatsoever, and they’re just trying to gain attention.

But statistically, we should at least hear them out. In Canada, about 25 percent of women have been a victim of sexual abuse at some point in their lives. Yet, only six percent of those cases are reported to police.

Of the cases that are reported to the police, less than four percent are false claims.

If 1000 women have been abused, only about 60 will report it, and of those maybe one might be lying. The chance that these women are just glory hounds is about one in a thousand.

We live in a culture where accusing someone of rape, of sexual assault, of inappropriate behaviour, can be a dangerous thing to do. It can be more harmful to the accuser than the accused.

It’s unfortunate and it’s wrong, but that’s the way the world has worked for years. Its how rape culture is perpetuated from the victim’s side.

When you think you are a nobody, and a famous billionaire or actor or musician (or boss or leader or anyone in a position of power or authority) does something inappropriate, it’s hard not to think (in many cases, correctly, which is sad) that the power lies with them, and if you say anything, you will be mocked. Humiliated. Outcast.

In cases like Donald Trump, Bill Cosby, Jian Gohmeshi, victims came out well after the fact. You could argue that they are “playing victim”, but there’s also the chance that the power balance has shifted. When the event happened, nobody would have listened, but now, with the intense glare of public scrutiny on their side, people might actually hear what they have to say, and even sympathize and accept, as opposed to ridicule and reject.

I have a friend who, just the other day, admitted that when she was ten, an elder in her church tried to assault her. She ran away, but didn’t mention it UNTIL NOW, more than 30 years later, because, the climate is actually starting to change. Because the whole Trump thing got people’s attention and she finally felt she could talk about it.

This is not the way the world should be, and it breaks my heart, but it’s the way the world is, and we need to fight to change it.

Yes, there is a chance that we will swing too far the other way. That we will create a culture where men’s lives can be destroyed because of accusations of abuse. It’s happened in some situations already. But we can’t reject the accusations outright. We need to test the voracity of what they say, but without setting up additional hurdles for victims, who are already dealing with this power imbalance,

If we are aware, we can take steps to mitigate the risk, and the benefit of living in a culture where women are respected and don’t have to fear that they will be ridiculed for not being able to stand up for themselves when a man abuses them outweigh those risks.