#MeToo: If not believe, at least listen

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Photo by Francesca Norman

A note from the editors: The University News does not generally publish anonymous commentary. However, exceptions do arise that warrant anonymity in cases where the sensitivity of the material and the impact on the author could otherwise prevent sharing important journalism. We have concluded  that anonymity is necessary  in this case to protect the identity of the writer for the sake of her privacy on campus. 

– Valeria Reyna Salaices and BeLynn Hollers, editor in chief and commentary editor, respectively.

In May 2018, during my freshman year, an older male student took advantage of me. 

I had run into him, an acquaintance at best, and stopped to speak with him on the Mall. By the time the night was over, he had raped me. I managed a terrified “no” which he ignored. This happened twice over a timeframe of six days. 

I convinced myself that he liked me and that my mutual interest in him justified his actions.

A year later, in Sept. 2019, I reported him to the University of Dallas Title IX office. The verdict came out 8 months later, in April 2020, as inconclusive. 

There wasn’t enough evidence to prove my claim to the office. Of course, he also denied it.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, “Nearly 1 in 5 women (18.3%) and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) in the United States have been raped at some time in their lives.” However, this is only the amount of survivors who have reported these cases. According to a 2015 report from the U.S. Department of Justice, 80% of cases go unreported.

 It’s sadly common that if women do report the incident, they usually wait a significant period of time before doing so. When they do eventually make the claim, many are met with the demand, “Why did you wait?”

When women wait months, years, even decades to say something, many believe that she is lying, that she is perhaps looking to jeopardize the man’s professional career—that even if it did happen, that was years ago, and he’s changed. The focus is often shifted to what he has to lose rather than the pain that he has caused. Perhaps he has a wife and children now, and he needs to keep his good image as a family man with solid values. Why would she wait until now to say something against him?

I can hardly speak for all women when I answer: I can only speak for myself. 

I waited primarily because I was traumatized. I was 19 at the time, certainly old enough to know what counted as consensual versus non-consensual. And yet I felt so ashamed that I blamed it on myself. He was drunk and I was sober when it happened. I told myself that being sober, I should’ve said no more forcefully and that I hadn’t done anything to stop him. To my guilty and broken mind, it seemed that I may not have asked for it, but I certainly let it happen.

How could I say something when he still lived nearby, when I still believed that it was my fault, and when professors and students alike spoke of him as a promising student with a superb intellect? 

A year and innumerable hours of therapy later, I gathered the courage and conviction to act. Most of my family and friends were overwhelmingly supportive of my decision, but I confess I still feel wounded by the lack of apparent support from a sparse few.

A common saying amidst the #MeToo movement is “believe all women” who claim to have been sexually assaulted. I offer instead that we should listen to all women. 

The immediate response to any woman who makes this claim should not be a demand for why she waited or the insistence that she is ruining the man’s reputation, but rather a sober sense of empathy, tempered with rationale and integrity. It takes an extraordinary amount of courage to admit that such a thing occurred in the first place, and even more so to bring it before the law. It is not something done lightly. 

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that 1-10% of such accusations falls into two categories: either proven false in that the incident never occurred, or assumed to be truthful but lacking conclusive evidence. This means a minimum of 90% of reports have at least some substance, no matter how long the woman has waited. 

Because of the 10%, you may not necessarily have to believe all women. But for the sake of the 90%, please listen to us.

3 COMMENTS

  1. This is a very difficult topic to discuss. Thank you for contributing.
    You mentioned that therapy helped you, and I am glad. While the primary method of therapy is not just listening, that tends to be what therapists do first. Many women, I fear, do not even have this support.

  2. ^would that help? I of course want justice for the author too. What she endured was a terrible thing. But I also recognize that justice doesn’t always happen in the American legal system, especially with cases such as this. The UD Title IX Office did everything they could, I’m sure. But if even they couldn’t get a conclusive decision, then what could the police do? I am not trying to say it couldn’t happen. I dearly wish it could. But practically speaking, police departments do rape tests as soon as possible after the incident occurred.

    2 years have passed since then, for the author. Any physical proof she may have had at the time has likely healed. And even if it was still present, she can’t conclusively prove that a particular UD alumnus of 2018, who has denied it already, and who is assumedly now living out of state, actually violated her. It does sadly come down to hearsay, I’m afraid. The author very likely has a case for her claim, but not enough evidence to get justice.

    If I am wrong in my guess that seeing the police would unfortunately be futile at this point, please do correct me. If there is any chance for the survivor to get justice, I want that for her. I’m just wondering how it can be done.

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