Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Letter of the Day | #SayTheirNames is about empowering women

Published:Thursday | January 19, 2017 | 1:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I get deeply disappointed when those I expect to say intelligent things do the contrary. First it was Boyne in his tirade about 'getting tough on crime' while acknowledging that his proposal will not actually solve crime in the long run. This would have been excusable if he were not regurgitating arguments he made over 10 years ago in his 2002 article, 'Criminals must be afraid'. Now, we have a handful of media practitioners and media personalities misconstruing and misrepresenting the value of the #SayTheirNames social media campaign.

This campaign started in the aftermath of the arrest and charge of the Reverend Rupert Clarke for alleged sex with a minor. It started after the recognition that many churches and communities silenced young women who experience sexual violence at the hands of family heads, community leaders and men of a certain ilk. #SayTheirNames is about empowering women to step forward and not suffer in silence. It is building a community and support system for these women who hitherto had to deal with the psychological and physical scars of being violated alone.

I never would have guessed that journalists brimming with their own manifestations of privilege would attempt to silence these women in their own indirect way. Their suggestions that these women should keep quiet until they have evidence that can go to court is deeply problematic. Anyone who has ever sat in court and observed a case on sexual violence would understand that rape kits only prove that the woman's vagina was entered into by the penis of a man. They do not prove that critical business of consent (unless it concerns an abused child). When it comes to consent, the believability of the woman is what is really on trial. Women who have been abused have to frequently go up against suggestions in court that they are liars or vindictive, or they are promiscuous and therefore must have consented. The woman's identity and personality is put on trial, not whether the man knew she did not consent.

 

OVERBURDENED AND INSENSITIVE

 

Before women even get to court, they have to deal with police officers who are sometimes unresponsive and ill-equipped to deal with sexual violence. They have to deal with overburdened and sometimes insensitive prosecutors. They have to deal with the community that sees them as troublemakers trying to bring down a hard-working, decent man. There is no wonder these women keep silent because reporting rape to the authorities doesn't have the effect it may have for a well-known journalist cloaked in respectability. It revictimises them and blames them for their abuse. Many women only have their stories to share, stories they know will not be believed because of the patriarchal and misogynistic society we live in. If you tell them to go to court or be quiet, you might as well tell them to be quiet.

So to those journalists tweeting that advocates are irresponsible for encouraging women to #saytheirnames, I advise you to check your privilege and your friend's list.

Glenroy Murray

Policy & Advocacy Manager, Equality for

All Foundation

Policy Officer, WE-Change