It is not unusual for scandals of misconduct to sweep the nation, after all, we thrive on the downfalls of those whom we once put on pedestals. However, the headlines that have erupted in the faces of politicians and celebrities alike have been eerily similar this past year: “Sex Allegations Against Roy Moore Send Republicans Reeling”,” Harvey Weinstein timeline: How the scandal unfolded”, and “Politicians accused of sexual harassment or assault” are only a few examples that have been thrown into the media frenzy.
Despite the numerous allegations and sources, many still refuse to believe the alleged victims, one of those people being Fox News contributor Tomi Lahren. In light of the Roy Moore allegations, Tomi released a video that incidentally encapsulates the fallacies and misunderstandings of the sexual assault problem. Through her miscalculated comments on this case, I hope to shed light on the ignorance surrounding this issue.
“ Think about it: This one accuser writes in her yearbook entry, and now I’m very suspicious of the whole lot of ‘em.”
In this, Tomi falls subject to the common ‘Hasty Generalization’ fallacy. She comes to the conclusion that all women deserve to be scrutinized for their assertions of assault because one woman acted in a way that arose her suspicion. She justifies her claim on her assumption that the woman is lying. In the beginning of the video, she states that she “does not know” if the woman is telling the truth or not, thus leading to this inevitable contradiction.
This highlights one of the key problems surrounding the issue of assault: scrutiny of the victims rather than the perpetrators. Victim blaming occurs because it is far easier to wrap our brains around the idea that women lie than it is to accept the numerous cases of assault that occur. It is time to accept these horrendous statistics:
1 out of every 6 women will experience sexual assault in their lifetime.
3% of men have experienced/will experience rape in their lifetime.
60,000 children are raped or assaulted each year.
Every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted.
“I’m a woman who is sick and tired of women out there who make things up to ruin someone’s life. It’s not okay. Crying rape or assault for revenge or political gain hurts actual victims of rape and assault.”
Tomi admits her uncertainty of Moore’s guilt, yet, she implies that the victim in discussion is “crying rape”. If the victim is crying rape, then that presumes the innocence of Roy Moore. Hence, another contradiction.
The real issue with this quote is not its lack of logic, but rather what it asserts about the truthfulness of victims as a whole. Emphasizing the possibility that a woman could be lying shifts the narrative away from the tragedies experienced by actual victims of assault and conversely, turns the accused into victims. The concrete repercussion of this is that 64-96% of cases go unreported, (Fisher et al., 2000; Perkins & Klaus, 1996). Focusing on the possibility of falsehood hurts the actual victims just as much as false accusations do.
More importantly to note, the possibility that a woman is lying about sexual assault is slim, specifically between 2% and 10% (ICDV). Keep in mind, this 2-10% is only accounting for the 13% of cases that face legal action.
To put this into perspective, from records dating back to 1989, only 52 men convicted of sexual assault were proven to be falsely accused. By comparison, in the same time period 790 people were falsely accused of murder. In other words, you are more likely to be falsely convicted of murder than you are of rape.
This being said, those who give false testimony in sexual assault cases deserve to face the same punishments as their alleged attacker would have faced upon conviction. There is no room for deceit in this conversation; false accusations of sexual assault undermine the suffering of real victims and should never be tolerated by any court.
“But here’s the problem. There is ZERO hard evidence. And in this country, we are innocent until proven guilty.”
Legally, yes, we are all innocent until proven guilty. However, this begs the question: what happens when you cannot be proven guilty or innocent? Unfortunately, this uncertain conclusion is a common outcome when sexual assault is taken to court. Sexual assault rarely, if ever, occurs with an eye-witness present and with no eye-witnesses to back up a claim, the prosecution of the accused becomes reliant on physical evidence.
Rape kits are the most common resource for collecting any physical proof of rape. Sadly, DNA evidence degrades rapidly: the victim must have the DNA collected between 12 hours to a maximum of 7 days after the incident, depending where the sample is taken from on the victim.
Most victims do not come forward in a timely manner which hurts their ability to provide physical evidence. The most common reason for this is because 70% of victims know their attacker personally (RAINN). Due to their familiarity with their attacker, only 18-25% report their case to the authorities (MCASA). It is important to understand that taking a friend, family member or acquaintance to court is more emotionally strenuous than accusing a stranger.
Even if the DNA is collected in a timely manner, it does not necessarily prove the victims claims to be true, it only proves that a sexual act occurred. California police sergeant, Kris Zuniga, states that “If there is some evidence, he can say it was consensual and then you’re back to a he said, she said.”, meaning the victim is back to square one.
The issue of evidence is the biggest hurdle standing in the way of victims. One solution that has been proposed is to administer polygraph tests to both the defendant and the plaintiff. However, even polygraph tests have been proven to be faulty, thus leading us back to the original problem. A solution to this is to provide legal hotlines for victims. While there are already anonymous hotlines to seek help, they cannot be traced back as a form of testimony should the victim take his/her case to court. A legal hotline would combine the support of the current resources with the legal advice of a lawyer. This resource, if implemented properly, would allow victims to understand their options and actions necessary to win a potential case against their attacker.
Ultimately, most attackers are never proven guilty. To put it in numbers: “out of 1000 instances of rape…only 7 cases will lead to a felony conviction.” (RAINN). We can logically assume, based on the number of incidents (I repeat, 1 out of 6 women), that the victims are telling the truth until proven otherwise. After all, we live in an “innocent until proven guilty society”, right?
“I still don’t understand: Why would these women come out now? Moore’s run for office before, held several public positions, and we heard not a peep. Why now?”
It appears that Tomi forgot about the #MeToo movement when she made this statement. This movement has acted as a catalyst for survivors to share their stories, #MeToo opened the floodgates, nobody should be shocked at the resulting water damage.
This explanation is an oversimplification of the underlying mental processes at hand, so I will briefly* ( I promise I’m trying not to write a dissertation) explain the real reason to the question, “why now?”. It has been proven that group therapy is beneficial to the healing process of those who have experienced trauma, specifically sexual abuse related trauma (New England Journal of Medicine). This movement has taken a quality of group therapy, the group, and expanded it to a public platform. Remember: there is power in numbers.
It is my hope that we can move this conversation from a place of fallacy to fact and from skepticism to sympathy. The only way to change these harrowing statistics is to alter the way we approach the problem as a whole. Through advocacy, education and compassion we can all do our part to support the victims of these atrocious acts.
If you want further information I have listed my sources and a few crisis hotlines below. Do not be afraid to speak out or ask for help.
(Numerous websites and numbers are listed on this site^)