THE BIG PICTURE
Illustration by Wesley Allsbrook
Galbraith had a simple rule: listen and verify. “A lot of times people say, ‘Believe your victim, believe your victim,’” Galbraith said. “But I don’t think that that’s the right standpoint. I think it’s listen to your victim. And then corroborate or refute based on how things go.”
Last month, The Marshall Project and ProPublica co-published this work of investigative journalism about institutional failures that led to a rape survivor being charged with making a false report while her rapist went free to rape five more people. Below we find good news in lessons learned from this piece.
- Sexual assault occurs at epidemic levels. When a survivor discloses sexual trauma, they are most likely telling the truth, yet members of the public and even sexual assault response professionals often and mistakenly think victims are lying about or imagining the rape they’re reporting. When we remain ignorant about the dynamics and prevalence of rape, we allow countless traumatizing and life-altering rapes to be committed. Our problem is false beliefs, not false reports.
I can’t stop thinking about this story…It really speaks to our need to understand responses to trauma and to recognize our own biases.
–Kaela, STAR Volunteer Coordinator
- It’s true that people accused of rape deserve a presumption of innocence. It’s also true that victims who report or disclose deserve a presumption of innocence rather than the misinformed and destructive assumption that they are lying. To drastically decrease rates of sexual trauma, community members should take seriously every single report or disclosure of rape and sexual abuse, while sexual assault response teams should investigate reports of rape in a thorough, informed, and unbiased manner.
This is a great story and is happening so much with survivors! My wish is that this sets a precedence for others to recognize the serial aspect of rape and that survivors all respond in different ways.
–Nicole, STAR Counselor
- Offenders don’t just wake up as serial rapists. They typically start with behaviors on the lower end of the sexual violence continuum, like voyeurism or street harassment, and then escalate over time. Also, every offender is someone’s loved one. Notice when people in your family, workplace, or social circle violate others’ boundaries—even in subtle ways—and make sure to set the expectation that respect for boundaries is non-negotiable.
- In this story, a rape survivor was charged with making a false report while her rapist went free to rape five more people. Although this story is filled with the pain, frustration, and injustice of a system that fails to adequately investigate reports of rape and hold offenders accountable, it does leave us with the reminder that we can change this system by establishing community standards in our own households and advocating for these standards in our community institutions. Systematic change can be a long process, but it’s absolutely possible and starts with a conversation. Allow the pain, frustration, and injustice to motivate you to speak up and make a difference.
Close to Home
- Fun and Inviting! Tales of sexual harassment in the service industry
- Treating service industry workers like people
- ‘Get home safe,’ my rapist said [Trigger Warning]
- “Spotlight” and its revelations
- Bill Cosby charged in sexual assault case
- What does a rapist look like?
- The justice black women seek will not be found in the courtroom
- The dangerous ramifications of Newsweek’s rape accusations story