“Believe Women” Should Be More Than an Empty Tagline | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey

Controversy after the Masterson guilty verdict puts a spotlight on rape culture.

If anyone else found themselves doing a double take when they heard that prominent celebrities Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, who wrote separate letters to the judge as character witnesses following Danny Masterson being convicted of rape charges, since released a video claiming they “support victims,” you are not alone. Just in case there is any ambiguity, here is what it really means if in fact you support and believe victims:

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  • Supporting victims of sexual assault and rape doesn’t just occur when the perpetrator has notoriety or is already not well-liked.
  • Supporting victims means that after perpetrators are convicted of rape, their punishment should fit the crime—regardless of whether the perpetrator is a father, or was a “good friend,” or “mentor,” or “like a family member” to others.
  • Supporting victims means believing in convictions even when it is inconvenient, messy, calls into question the character of someone you thought you knew or even trusted.
  • Supporting victims is incongruent with writing letters coming to the defense of the “character” of a perpetrator who has been convicted and found guilty of drugging and raping two women (with other allegations left unresolved).
  • Supporting victims means recognizing that someone can have a favorable public persona—or even be a good friend in private—but also engage in acts of sexual violence against others.
  • Supporting victims means acknowledging that there is no “profile” of a sexual predator—the majority of women are sexually assaulted by men that they know—and may even trust—not the hooded stranger in a back alley who preys on unsuspecting victims late at night (although of course that can also happen).
  • Supporting victims means knowing when to stop talking or using one’s privilege to control a narrative, and when to shut up and listen.
  • Supporting victims means being willing to rethink what we have been led to believe is true about others, and recognizing that what we know is likely only part of a given story or incomplete.
  • Supporting victims means not engaging in behaviors or rhetoric that shames, silences, blames, or stops other victims from coming forward and using their voices.
  • Supporting victims means validating the severity and soul-crushing act of violence that is rape, and not downplaying or attempting to undermine the seriousness of the crime of the perpetrator against their victim(s).

It is quite easy to write out a hashtag and brand oneself as a supporter of victims of sexual assault and violence in the hypothetical. In practice, this means reassessing all the cultural mythologies and institutions that continue to support and defend perpetrators of violence against women to the detriment of their victims.

Danny Masterson was convicted of raping two women. He was also accused of raping a third woman, although the jury was deadlocked on that charge. Multiple institutions—including the Church of Scientology—protected him to the detriment of the accusers, which is commonly the case in allegations of sexual violence against women. Despite the odds, these women have finally seen justice served nearly 20 years after these crimes were committed. Supporting victims means identifying who the aggressor and perpetrator and now convicted rapist is in these cases, and rightly recognizing who the actual victims are. Supporting women means elevating their voices and bearing witness to what they have endured and survived if or when they are willing to disclose their experiences.

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As I often write about the reality of rape culture, let us pay heed that we see examples all the time of how values associated with it are demonstrated in our popular cultural landscape and perpetuated by the institutions embedded in Hollywood itself.

Supporting and believing women means not engaging or participating in the common practices of our culture that shames, silences, blames victims or attempts to explain away or downplay the severity of the perpetrator’s crimes.

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