The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
If there’s a phenomenon regarding high-profile sexual assault accusations that I don’t understand, it’s the idea that women accuse rich, powerful and famous men of sexual assault because they want money and/or fame. Yet again, a man of large wealth and prestige, this time Harvey Weinstein, has been accused of sexually assaulting and abusing women. Yet again, people on the internet are responding with disbelief. We see this with dozens of other cases, like the Bill Cosby accusations, and it makes no sense whatsoever. The vast majority of sexual violence goes unreported, and of the incidents that are reported, less than 20 percent lead to an arrest. Less than 20 percent of those arrests even lead to a referral to a prosecutor, and the numbers dwindle even further when looking at the felony convictions and incarceration rates of the perpetrators. In other words, even in the unlikely event that sexual assault is reported, statistics show that alleged perpetrators rarely have to appear in court or go to prison. Thus, it’s unlikely that an accusation of sexual assault would lead to the accuser gaining money from the accusation.
Let’s now move on to the claim that women could gain fame from these accusations. Sure, their names could appear in newspaper headlines a few times, but often, the stories about women who come forward about sexual abuse and assault aren’t very flattering or positive. Often, the women get blamed for the incidents and people accuse them of all sorts of nasty things, not least of which being seeking attention.
As for the idea that being accused of sexual assault can ruin the alleged perpetrator’s career, let’s take a stroll down the lane of men whose careers have been devastated by accusations of sexual assault and rape. Woody Allen, Cee-Lo Green, Michael Jackson, Kobe Bryant, Sean Penn, Casey Affleck, R. Kelly, Roman Polanski, Alfred Hitchcock, Marlon Brando and, of course, Donald Trump. None of these men suffered more than temporary setbacks to their careers, if they suffered any at all. Time and time again, men accused of sexual violence have been allowed to continue their careers and have been given the benefit of the doubt. The public is incredibly lenient with these famous and powerful men, many of whom are white, and much less liable to believe the women who accuse them. If any woman were to accuse a rich and powerful man of sexual violence in the hopes of ruining his career, she would almost definitely not succeed, if we're judging by these examples.
Yes, some rape accusations are false, and some men’s careers are damaged as a result of false rape accusations, but the vast majority of accusations aren’t false. The vast majority of high-profile accusations of rape neither ruin the men’s careers nor benefit the women who accuse them. It makes no logical sense to believe that women accuse rich and famous men of rape and sexual assault in order to gain something. Most often, the women are unfortunately usually the ones who suffer not only the assault, but also the backlash they receive if they talk about being assaulted, while the rich and powerful men continue on with their careers without facing any of the consequences.
Of course, it’s important to be critical of the news we read and hear, but it’s also important to take women seriously when they say that they’ve been assaulted or abused, no matter what situation they’re in or whom they’re accusing. Maybe if we start taking women seriously when they come forward with their stories of abuse and assault, there will be fewer cases of sexual violence.
If we cultivate a society that’s intolerant of sexual violence, fewer people will commit sexual violence.
After all, isn’t that what we all want––less sexual assault and abuse? We all need to commit to creating a safer society for everyone, and that means taking women seriously when they say they’ve been raped, assaulted, or abused.