Editorial: We don’t know how to believe in rape
Why do we believe that 1,000 kids were touched or molested or outright raped by priests or laity in the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania, but we seem to choke on believing women who say they were raped?
We believe, but with questions.
We say we believe, but with judgment.
We say we want to believe, but with an asterisk that indicates, really, we find fault.
Is it because we don’t value the women who say they were touched or grabbed or invaded? Is it because we think if she was pretty, she was asking for it, and if she wasn’t, she should have been flattered?
Is it because we believe men more when they say it didn’t happen? Is it because we think a nice guy wouldn’t do that, and if it was a bad guy, she should have been more careful?
Is it because we question how she got in that position? Why was she there? Why was she drinking? Why was she alone? Why was she with him?
The one thing that comes up continually when there is any claim of rape are questions. We seem to believe if we can just get answers, we can find a solution, and the solution is almost always how to make the woman — or often, the girl — bear the burden of not getting herself raped rather than teaching men — and frequently, boys — not to rape.
We have to stop thinking that being raped is like having your car stolen or having your house burglarized, something you lost that you recover by filing a report. It is like being gut-shot, something that leaves you bleeding and dying slowly.
It is not a crime of opportunity, like having your purse stolen from an unlocked car. It is like being stabbed because you happened to be out for a night with your friends. It is violent and it is flagrant in its contempt.
Separate the political aspects of the Senate judiciary hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh this week, and you are left with what many people have pointed to: a he-said, she-said situation. But this isn’t about what Christine Blasey Ford said in accusing him, or what Kavanaugh said in denying. This isn’t about the vote or the outcome.
This is about what the people who read about it and watched it and listened to it said and thought.
Rape is one of the oldest crimes known to man. It has been with us forever, and yet we still don’t know how to address it. We have a handle on murder. We have made up our minds about theft. For most crimes, we have no problem deciding on a victim and a perpetrator.
But in this one place, we continue to stumble over our own questions when we hear the “r” word uttered.
And yet we wonder why it takes 10, 20, 30 years to say that something happened. We wonder why a woman or girl didn’t come forward sooner.
She didn’t come forward because of us. Because of the questions. Because she already has those questions in her own head, even if she knows she didn’t do anything wrong.
Maybe there is hope for us, though. Maybe someday we will believe a woman without disparaging her.
After all, we believe 1,000 kids in Pennsylvania now. And that only took 70 years.