One in two women and one in five men have experienced sexual violence in their lives. In the current journalistic climate of he-said, she-said—with Bill Cosby and now the UVA student “Jackie” accused of fabricating details of her gang rape featured in Rolling Stone—it’s essential to keep the focus on those who have been affected.
“Jackie is just one story. Asking our colleagues to help us trend #IBelieveJackie is about believing all survivors. It’s about showing survivors that there’s a community who believes them,” says Monika Johnson Hostler, president of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence.
The fact is that false accusations are uncommon: As The Huffington Post points out, males are more likely to suffer sexual assault than to be falsely accused of it.
“Many victims don’t come forward because they’re concerned that they won’t be believed or, worse, that there’s a stigma. This is especially true around men, because people think they will re-victimize, which is a myth. We hear from men all the time that they’re hesitant to come forward because they won’t be able to see a niece or nephew again, or might lose their job as a teacher,” says Steve LePore, executive director of 1 in 6, which works with men and those in the lives of men who had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences as children.
Survivors need to know: There are people out there who will believe you.
As Jackie’s story is called into question, we must continue to say NO MORE to victim-shaming and remember the larger issue at heart, says LePore. We’re not only debating abstract concepts about journalistic integrity: we’re talking about real people experiencing real pain.
“The bigger issue is not about UVA,” says Johnson. “My concern isn’t about one victim and one story that is being questioned. It’s about the impact on all survivors. They may see this as validating self-blame and increase the number of survivors who won’t come forward because they read this and watched the media’s negative response. Survivors need to know: There are people out there who will believe you.”
To learn how to help someone who has experienced sexual assault or abuse or to get help yourself, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 (HOPE) or access a secure, online private chat HERE.
Learn more about the work of 1 in 6 with male survivors of sexual abuse here.
Read the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence’s statement in response to the fallout from Rolling Stone’s coverage of Jackie’s sexual assault.