**** spoiler this post talks about sexual abuse and the criminal justice system ***
A former college posted the following on Facebook today:
“So Bill Roache has been found not guilty, this suggests that he has done nothing wrong. So will any action be taken against his accusers? If someone is guilty of this crime, there shouldn’t be any leniency, but it bothers me if we have a situation where people can randomly accuse innocent people-for publicity, money or any other reason.”
It was referring to this high profile sexual abuse court case http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-26068034
It bothers me that when people report that sexual abuse has happened and the CPS doesn’t take the case to court or if there is a not guilty verdict then the assumption is that the survivor of abuse is lying.
If my house was burgled and accused burglar was found not guilty does that mean I was not burgled?
If my friend was killed and accused murderer was found not guilty does that mean she was not murdered?
Clearly I was burgled or my friend murdered for a trial to happen in the first instance. So either the wrong person was in the dock or they had a bloody good barrister.
But in the majority of sexual abuse cases (those excluding rapes and assaults from a stranger) a survivor needs to have done the detective work themselves before going to the police. The survivor needs to be in a position to say it was this person, at this time and in this way. So this survivor is already in a position of making an accusation about a specific person.
Anyway, I digress….
This former colleague is a guy that didn’t strike me as having an ignorant, sexist and ‘Daily Mail reader’ type. Knowing him I was quite surprised at his view.
Should I ignore his status? Should I say something?
What would be the repercussions of saying something? I assumed I might get a negative ‘Daily Mail’ response, if not from him, then from his friends. Who knows what circles colleagues mix in outside of work? But if that was the case I could just defriend him, as maybe not the kind of friend I would want.
I made the decision to say something.
“William Roach’s not guilty verdict stands and that’s what the jury decided. At the same time it is horrendously difficult to prove ‘beyond all reason doubt’ that historical sexual abuse happened. Because of the nature of the crime.”
Followed by :
“I have a very distinct and personal view on this. CPS didn’t take up my case when I was 16. Because of the nature of the crime it is difficult to prove. This led to most of my family disowning me and believing that this was a ‘vindictive’ accusation. Years later he was found guilty of sexually abusing an 8 year old girl. Despite that some people still think my allegation was vindictive. People are scared to acknowledge sexual abuse happens (and their passive collaboration in it by not noticing). In my experience I have never come across anyone who has ‘cried rape.’ But I know far too many (100s) that are scared to say it happened to them. Scared to go the police, to tell their family etc. There are terrifying stats on the small percentage of women who report sexual assault, then out of them the small percentage that CPS take up, then out of them small number that get through a whole trial, then out of them the small number that are found guilty. And that’s because the nature of the crime not that fact that the horror of sexual abuse isn’t happening.”
I left it that. I didn’t have the energy to debate and was now running late for a meeting.
I was pleasantly surprised by his response.
A personal direct message which validated the horror of my experience. He apologised for any offense and assured me that he had already deleted the original post.
I assured him that I wasn’t offended and had assumed that his opinion was from a lucky naivety of having not having been directly or indirectly exposed to the horror that is sexual abuse. I know so many survivors of sexual abuse that have to force myself to be aware that not all people ‘get it’.
My repairs* to myself for not speaking out about being sexually abused when I was a child is that I will speak out:
- if anything happens to me in the future
- I see it happening to someone else and
- to will raise awareness as and when I feel I safely can.
I reassured him that I wasn’t offended and that my comment was in that spirit of awareness raising and importantly with a guy that I felt safe enough to.
Thankfully he said that the conversation had ‘made him think.’ I’m glad it did and I hope that he is not hung up on offending me.
My work today is done
*A note on my repair approach. DBT suggest that it is effective to repair actions that cause justified shame. Being sexually abused by is nothing to be ashamed of in fact any shame is unjustified in this situation. However, I *personally* need to ‘repair’. There is a 1% of me that struggles with it not being justified shame, for very specific reasons. So therapeutically I have made the decision to make a ‘repair’. Some will consider my approach as self invalidating. However, it is my therapeutic choice to do so, please don’t question it!