Tricks and truths of sexual assault


Every 98 seconds, a sexual assault occurs in the United States. 

That is a fact; there’s data and research — provided by the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN) — to prove it. 

I’ve met Ann Curry twice.

It was in her capacity as an alumna of the University of Oregon and, in both instances, she tossed away the public relations machine that is the business of higher education and urgently pressed towards the truth; the truth of reporting; the truth of the business. 

The truth is the truth. 

She talked about her thoughts on native advertising — the new practice that yields a partner-ship between journalism and advertising. “Orange is the New Black” will buy an ad in the New York Times if the Times agrees to run a story on female inmates in America. The story may be factual but only exists because a company paid for an ad.

Curry said it made her uncomfortable because journalists should tell readers exactly what story we’re trying to tell and why. It made her uncomfortable because we shouldn’t trick people. 

And that’s why, as a journalist and a woman, it’s difficult to watch coverage unfold on Weinstein, Lauer, Moonves and Kavanaugh. It feels more like tricks than truths.

It makes me anxious; the same sort of anxious I felt when Curry gave a tearful farewell after being fired. And when Rose McGowan was ostracized. And when Weinstein’s abuse was so systematic and well-known that it reached the lowest common denominator — becoming ma-terial for sitcoms and award shows. 

I watch senators rally for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s career by classifying sexual assault as a teenage “rite of passage,” and I feel the same anxious sickness as when men tell me to smile. 

They knew; they knew and did nothing. Weinstein’s banishment, Lauer’s termination — they’re just tricks. 

The truth is that corporations terminating sexual harassers and abusers now that the culture has changed is just a new way to exhibit power over the women. Firing these men so swiftly, based on the same truths that have been swatted away for years, shows it was always within their power to do so.

They just chose not to. 

They chose not to until the potential loss of profit rather than the reality of broken lives forced their hand. Their greed simply played the Cyrano to their sympathy so that it may be perceived as morality.

It feels the same as watching the very senators who utilized military families during elections now second-guess Christine Blasey Ford, insisting the accusations against Kavanaugh shouldn’t derail his career — turning the same blind eye to the 18,900 military members who experience unwanted sexual contact according to the most recent data.

Maybe those 18,900 service members were drunk. Because when women are drunk, the same sect attempting to dismiss Blasey Ford reasons that a woman has full authority of her faculties and therefore remains at fault. These characteristics, however, don’t seem to apply for the abuser.

Instead, they undergo a metamorphosis that defies logic and reason and can only be attributed to the ugly depths of ego that says it’s not his fault. 

Because, for him, a heightened blood alcohol level excuses him from the burden of blame and the responsibility of guilt. 

He was drunk; it’s not his fault. 

She was drunk; what did she expect? 

It’s why college basketball players get to keep playing despite facing a forcible rape charge — because there is an argument that accusations shouldn’t ruin their lives. It’s an argument indicative of a broader narrative: That accused men’s lives hold a greater value that can be tarnished while the accuser’s life isn’t worth half as much. 

A collegiate basketball career weighs more than a lifetime of emotional health and stability. 

The women are speaking up and the system is tumbling down. But the troubling thing about this flawed revolution is that the system was built in the first place. There was an institutional decision to protect the abuser as an “asset” and discredit the victim as a “liability.” 

Even in the instances when men find themselves the recipient of a pink slip, a debate emerges over what they’re owed and the disturbing argument that they are entitled to their bonuses and salaries.

More so than she was entitled to her body.

More so than she was entitled to her choice to say “No.”

A choice guaranteed by the freedom of speech granted to her — essentially — a full 144 years after he earned the same right by simply proclaiming he had it, granted to him by God. 

And when people ask why women don’t come forward, it’s because they don’t understand all of this.

They don’t understand that 94 percent of women experience PTSD after being assaulted and 13 percent attempt suicide. They don’t understand that 994 accused assailants will go free for every 1,000 accused. 

In other words, 99 percent get away with it. 

And they don’t understand that while one woman is deciding whether or not to come forward — whether or not she was raped “enough” for it to count — she doesn’t even get two minutes (120 seconds) to make the decision without it happening to another woman somewhere else.