Home » Feminism » he would say I “cried rape”: false allegations and rape culture

he would say I “cried rape”: false allegations and rape culture

prosperina

serious trigger warning for verbal abuse, psychological abuse, emotional manipulation, sexual assault, rape, and rape apologia.

I’d never seen so many fireflies in one place before. It was early summer in Virginia, and I was sitting, sheltered under a gazebo, watching golden lights flicker on the undisturbed, clear surface of a pond. It was one of those perfect summer evenings, when the gentle breeze feels good brushing against your bare arms, and the air feels close and warm, like a light blanket fluttering around you. It was one of those moments when silence felt comfortable, when words hung motionless in the air.

The words I’d just spoken seemed to surround me, hanging like broken ornaments from silent strings.

He raped me.

It was the first time I’d ever said the words out loud, to anyone. Ever.

I’d known it was the truth for a few months now. The words had been rattling around inside of me, glass shards I shied away from touching, from letting come up my throat and exist outside of me. But, I’d said them, and the trueness finally settled inside of me, and it was like I hadn’t really understood them before I’d said them, out loud, in a place where someone was listening.

It didn’t take very long for that to shatter.

You’re lying. Insidious, and the accusation felt more real to me than the fragility of my words.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A while ago I wrote a post about consent, and what it has come to mean to me. It’s the most healing word I own, because it tells me that what happened to me wasn’t my fault, that it happened to me, that it was not what I justly deserved. I had never given him my consent, but that didn’t matter when I was on my back on the blue shag carpet, and I said the words please, please, stop, I don’t want to do this and he used his watch to cut my knee open and then called me a goddamn fucking bitch.

And, on that post, just like every post I’ve ever seen when a woman dares to talk about rape and consent, a man who had never commented on my blog before, who had never liked a post before, who I’d never heard of before, anywhere, and who has never commented since, deigned to comment to tell me about false allegations and how horrible, how awful, how destructive they are.

I did my best to be civil. But, by my last comment, you can tell that I was angry.

Let me be absolutely clear: false accusations are horrific. I would never deny that, would never try to argue that they aren’t.

However, there is a reason why I, personally, react to them consistently being introduced into conversations on rape and consent on a visceral, whole-body level. Hearing about them makes me physically ill– to the point where I have actually vomited because of discussions concerning them. Any time I try to talk about it with Handsome, I end up shaking and weeping, fighting off a panic attack.

A few days ago, I realized why.

I was engaged to my rapist– had been engaged to him for almost a year by the time he raped me. He sexually assaulted me… I honestly don’t know. The number of times is probably in the hundreds. Looking back over our relationship, he had been grooming me for that moment for literally years. It had started small– minor things I could brush off as cute, as innocent, as harmless, but things still done to me without my consent. Slowly, so slowly I couldn’t tell what was happening, everything intensified. And, through it all, he made absolutely certain that I knew beyond all doubt that there was no such thing as no. If I said no to anything– if I didn’t instantly answer when he called, if I didn’t immediately change my clothes when he told me to, if I didn’t comply with every request the second he made it, I was punished.

He also made it brutally, horribly clear that he was not interested in only demanding and taking– if I was not at least a semi-active participant in my own assault, he would punish me for that, too.

That part of my story is usually the one I can never talk about. I’m shaking, right now, as I write these words. Today, I can say the words “I was raped” and talk about my experience with some measure of calm, almost detachment. But this? How I engaged in my own assaults? How I deliberately ignored my feelings of revulsion, of disgust, the intense nausea? How I initiated sexual encounters with him, even though I didn’t want to? How I did my best to be sexy for him? How I did it all knowing if I didn’t, that he would punish me, or even worse. leave me?

This has left me with deep psychological scars that appear in my life as neuroses. Some of the most humiliating experiences of our entire relationship occurred in bathrooms, and, because of that, I cannot, cannot, take a shower in a strange place without struggling with flashbacks and panic, and I can barely get in and out of my own shower without spraying it down with Lysol before and after, although I am slowly getting better.

I say all of that to say this: if I had known that what had happened to me was rape, if I’d had any understanding of what consent was, if I’d known sex you don’t want to have is rape, maybe I could have done something. I could have gone to the police, filed a report. I could have gone to my college’s student affairs office and asked for help.

But, I know what would have happened.

Anyone involved would have gone to John*. And he would tell them that I was lying, that I was his fiancé. He would have directed me to his parents– because he had made sure they witnessed me “initiating” physical things, like cuddling and touching and kissing. He had the entire campus on his side– he leveraged his popularity and his fame against me, deliberately doing everything within his power to discredit me as that “crazy bitch.” Years after I’d graduated, students still knew who I was, and what I’d done to him.” And the police would have marked my report a false allegation, and I would have been dismissed as a liar.

The student affairs at my college would have expelled me for sexual misconduct, and almost four years of college would have disappeared, with unaccredited, nontransferable credits.

I know this because it happens every. single. damn. day.

I know this, because I took one of my friends to the hospital to get a rape kit, and they took pictures, and the police interviewed her. But then her case was dismissed, and when she asked them why, they told her they had talked to her ex-boyfriend, who told them she was lying, that it was consensual, and he had witnesses of her kissing him, and, then the officer started yelling at her for treating the police like her own personal puppets and they have “better things to do then waste time on attention whores.”

I know this because another one of my friends went to our college administration to ask for their help, and told them what her boyfriend was doing to her, and they expelled her for “sexual misconduct,” and her family kicked her out of their home.

I know this because another woman on my campus was being sex trafficked, and when our college found out about it, they expelled her, and not only did they expel her, they splashed her story around the entire campus and every single last woman on campus was explicitly told that if we are sex trafficked it is our own fault.

I know this, because when a woman says I was raped the very first thing that the entire world starts screaming at her is you’re a liar.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is why bringing false allegations into conversations about rape and consent is so damaging. We aren’t reacting negatively because we don’t think that false allegations are horrible, or that false allegations are insignificant and easily dismissed, because they aren’t. We are reacting this way because we live in a world where false allegations are the dominant narrative. Because false allegations are a nearly-universal part of any conversation about rape, when a woman says that she is a rape survivor, one of the first things that becomes a part of that conversation is suspicion, cynicism, and dismissal.

We are told that if we didn’t handle the situation exactly the way some person on the internet thinks it should be handled, then our credibility is questioned. If we answer the invasive, boundary-violating inquiry “did you report it?” with “no,” then everything about our story is frequently dismissed. Because reporting a rape, to these people, is just as simple as reporting any other kind of crime, and why wouldn’t you? The only reason why you didn’t report your rape is, secretly, you know you wanted it. People who are true rape victims would have no problem with reporting it. And if you were really raped, you don’t have to worry about being dismissed. Any woman who’s worried about being called is a liar is only worried because she actually is one.

I understand why men are so afraid of false allegations. I get that, I really, really do.

But we desperately need an alternative. Right now, the conversation is completely polarized, and the story of the woman who “cries rape” is winning. Because rape victim and liar are so close together, so rhetorically linked, we live in a world where reporting your rape can be one of the most violating, horrible experiences of your life. Where up to 95% of all rapes go unreported because of what happens to women who come forward.

That is a world we need to change.

28 thoughts on “he would say I “cried rape”: false allegations and rape culture

  1. I can’t imagine how hard this was to write. Thanks for talking about it. People need to stop bringing up ‘false accusations’ every time rape is talked about.

  2. I am crying for you as I read this. I am so sorry you have experienced this, I am so sorry for the women who have been told they are liars, I am so sorry that I have had to experience being told that I was lying about abuse as well. If you were here, I’d give you a hug. <3

  3. Tears are streaming down my face. I love you. Thank you for being so vulnerable, to share this. It needs to be said. And more of us need to listen.
    Sending {{Hugs}}.

  4. This is one of the best/saddest posts I’ve seen…just because it reminds me so much of my story.

    One of the things that was the hardest for me to get over was the fact that *I* would initiate things with my abusive ex, I would try to be sexy. I had to realize that ALL of this was a part of his overarching sexual abuse. He would get angry, pout, whine if I didn’t do things the “right” way.

    And, as much as I’d like to say I don’t care about what people think about me where I used to live (in a different state with my abuser), it still makes me crazy that people–including some who used to be my friends–are probably on his side, that I am the “crazy one” and he’s “so nice!” Excuse me while I go throw up.

    Thank you for this post.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this — it needed to be said, so badly. You are an incredibly brave person — I’m not sure I would have had the courage to write this. I’m so sorry about what happened to you. It was heinous and wrong, and you should not have been the one to suffer for it.

  6. I am so sorry for what you have been through and I totally understand. I was married and sexually assaulted…but who would believe that a husband can assault his wife… but NO means NO! It is so sad what society is doing to rape victims by believing that they are making “false accusations”. It seems that unless a woman is beat, bloodied and bruised, that they don’t believe it. This has to change!!! Rapist are getting away with a violence against women and these victims are getting victimized again by society… I will be praying for you and your healing…

  7. Thank you for sharing this. It must be really hard to live with every day and I wish for justice for you and the person who did this to you. When I was hurt (others called it rape) by a man in college, I ran away. I left the school I was attending never to return. I didn’t come forward because the very thought of seeing him again was too much. It’s so hard. God bless.

  8. **Trigger warning: reporting rape, rape exam**
    Anyone who claims that “true” rape victims have no trouble reporting it has been lucky enough to never have reported a rape. For me, the rape exam was more painful than the rape itself. (Lubricating jelly destroys DNA evidence, so they inserted the speculum with only water droplets for lubrication.) The main difference was the nurses held my hand and promised me that I could scream and/or ask them to stop at any time. The hospital had informed me at the beginning though that the exam costs were only covered if I completed the exam. Logically, I can understand that. Emotionally, though, that seems to be coerced consent for the exam itself.

    I was lucky enough to have police who believed me immediately, but I have since learned that was only luck. Why police officers harass women whose stories sound exactly the same as mine, I will never understand. I was also lucky enough to avoid going to trial. The bastard took a plea bargain the afternoon before the trial was scheduled. I got to avoid testifying and cross examination, but the preparation I had to do with the prosecutor brought back all the memories that I had been able to suppress in the year between when the rape occurred and the trial was finally scheduled.

    I don’t regret reporting my rape, but I do regret telling one of my friends about it (she was the first non-official person I told because she was the easiest person to run to when I needed a safe place to sleep afterward). I don’t blame any rape victim who doesn’t report. The reporting aftermath is horrible and not necessarily worth it. Most importantly though, the idiots who dare classify victims as “true victim” vs. “someone crying rape” need to understand THEY are part of the reason victims have such a hard time admitting to anyone (officially or unofficially) “I was raped”.

  9. It makes me sad & angry to read how you were groomed, set up, abused & raped. I hope you have heard from many that: IT WASN’T YOUR FAULT. None of it: IS YOUR FAULT. YOU ARE NOT A LIAR, you are a truth-teller. I believe you.

    People told me that for years (after being sexually abused as a child) it took twenty some years to finally know in my heart, body & soul that I was innocent even though my body responded…

    The man that did all this to you is a f****** monster, a narcissistic psychopath.

    I don’t know how you were able to write this, but I thank God you are putting words to your nightmare and I am crying as I pray for you right now.

    I suspect that you don’t feel courageous, but whatever you feel, you are brave to me. Thank-You for speaking, sharing.

    (My hope is that some of the men who contribute here will stand as gatekeepers if anyone comes here to comment on false allegations and how horrible, how awful, how destructive they are.)

  10. First of all, I would like to applaud your courage in sharing this painful story. You are not only a ‘rape survivor’ you are a survivor of severe verbal, physical, sexual, psychological & spiritual abuse. You are Amazing!

    I also would like to comment on the correlation between talking about rape & talking about false allegations. There was a terrible story in my hometown paper about an 18 year old woman who was raped in her college dorm room by four men she knew, but had not invited to visit her. They had been let into her building without her consent. I shared this article on Facebook with a comment to the effect of how I could definitely see this happening at that university because I’d been there on many occasions as a guest. I also mentioned how I hoped the four men would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The FIRST comment I received was from a man who immediately mentioned the Duke Lacrosse team & the false rape allegations against them. WTF??!!

    I think the reason that most men do this is because they cannot put themselves in our place. They cannot conceive of what it is like to be a woman – to be a person who is usually smaller than a man with fraction of their physical strength and aggression. They cannot imagine being forced to participate in a sexual act against their will. They can’t put themselves in the rapist’s place because that would make them horrible people. But they CAN put themselves in the place of a wrongfully accused MAN – they feel safe there and so that’s where they stay. And while they stay in their delusional state of righteous indignation, their wives, girlfriends, daughters, nieces are NOT safe, especially while good men do nothing but try to change the conversation about what it should be about – preventing rape from happening in the first place.

  11. I am amazed and grateful for your bravery in writing this post. I know how awful the abuse and harassment can be to posting on this topic.

    I just wanted to share this link, which I recently came across, which explains why police and rape victims are so often at odds and how teaching police investigators the science behind how the brain processes trauma could lead to more police being empathetic and aware of how to approach rape/abuse victims. It won’t solve the problem of police who are entrenched misogynists, but it should resolve the issue of those who are simply ignorant about why trauma victims react in ways that make them seem “suspicious” and “unbelievable” to police due to the way they are trained to interrogate.

    I hope it also helps validate your (or any readers’/commenters’) own reactions and answer some of your “why did I behave that way”.

    In solidarity.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2013/06/why_cops_don_t_believe_rape_victims_and_how_brain_science_can_solve_the.html

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  14. Thank you so much for posting this. I was also coerced into being a participant in my own sexual abuse – I knew if I didn’t cooperate, whatever I’d get afterwards would be worse – and while I’m so sorry that this happened to you too, it’s at least good to know that I’m not alone. Thank you.

  15. Hey, there. I just wanted to share something with you that I hope you find encouraging. It’s not specifically about the concept of the false rape accusation, but it is about something you mentioned. I am familiar with the kinds of institutions that you mentioned that expel victims of sexual assault for “sexual misconduct.” I have no doubt that that sort of thing happened at my alma mater, and has happened where I now teach. I just want to share with you that at least one school–the one where I’m on the faculty–is working to correct these wrongs. A colleague and I are working together to re-write our sexual assault prevention and response guidelines for the university, and we have immense support from the administration, counseling services, campus safety, and student life. Finding the right language is tricky (especially as we navigate church and school politics, established policies, and new federal guidelines), but we are working to establish policies so that this kind of thing NEVER happens to a victim of sexual assault. I am hopeful that the more people speak out about this thing, the more well known the problem will become. The harder it will be for people to ignore. People like you, bravely sharing your stories and pain, are the reason why there is now an understanding of rape culture among people who never would have given it a second thought before. My colleague and I are meeting very little pushback, even though I would have expected it, based on the topic. We are even working to include specific language that students who are victims of sexual assault when alcohol was involved will not have to fear repercussions for breaking the university’s alcohol policy. For a Christian university, I think that is a pretty big step. I hope other Christian universities start making the same strides.

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  18. This is so similar to my story. The part you wrote about being a participant in your own assault. I totally get that. And that’s what plants the doubts in your head. What a very well-written piece. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  19. Wow – this is SO powerful. Thank you for sharing your journey so publicly. You put into words so well what I had been feeling for so long (“why do men always bring up ‘false accusations’ in a rape conversation??”) but didn’t know how to express myself.

    I have had my own struggles with PTSD (not sexual assault related) and I know what a living hell it can be. I hope you are continuing to heal. Hugs to you.

  20. We also need to look at this from the other end. Every woman who can be beaten, bullied, or shamed into either not making charges or withdrawing charges becomes a “false allegation”. This means that the statistics on false allegations are drastically over-inflated, which in turn feeds back into the myth of “women lie about being raped all the time”. It is little wonder that so many men are deeply invested in keeping that myth going.

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