We Need to Handle Rape Better

I recently read that Toby Turner, YouTube celebrity, has been accused of rape on Tumblr.  The story showed up in my news and YouTube feeds.  It is a Bill Cosby story all over again.

When the Bill Cosby story hit the news, I didn’t want to believe it.  I tried to keep an open mind, but it was difficult.  I grew up on Cosby.  I also didn’t care for the Trial by Social Media that surrounded that whole situation.

So here it is again, this time with Toby Turner as the accused.  He’s a lesser known celebrity, but this is the same sort of trial outside the courts.  No lawyers.  No due process.  Just the story of two individuals, and people divided over which one to believe.

We need to do better than this, both for the victims of rape, and for those that stand accused.

First, we need to protect the victims.  We need to make them feel safe and secure.  We need to believe someone when they say they have been raped, and give them whatever support and treatment they deserve.  If it is counselling, or privacy, or medical treatment, or all of the above, we need to give them what they need.  No second guessing.  No victim should ever be subjected to further shame or humiliation after such a difficult trauma.

We need to make sure that rape victims can go to the police.  This means changing our culture.  A victim should not have to fear repercussions for reporting the crime.  A victim should not have to fear further embarrassment.  The seriousness of what they’ve been through should never be dismissed.  We should be treating victims of all crimes with compassion, but rape victims especially, so that they can report the crime and begin the legal process for bringing the rapist to justice.

If a rape victim chooses to go to social media instead of the police, we need to continue to believe them, and give them the support that they need.  It’s difficult enough admitting to something like that.  We don’t need to make it more difficult by dismissing their pain.  We need to show rape victims compassion, without judgement.  It is not their fault.  They haven’t lost their honor, or their innocence.  They are the same person they were before.  They’ve been made to suffer something no one should suffer, and they deserve to be treated with respect, humanity, and love.

However, if a rape victim chooses to go to social media and not the police, we also need to be careful how we deal with the one that is accused.

This is the difficult part.  I just said that we need to believe the victim, and give them what they need.  Does that mean that we need to believe them when they’re accusing someone publicly, and they are seeking justice through social media?

No.  Social media is not a court of law.  Social and news media is not a place of evidence or due process.  Social and news media is not the place where we should mete out justice.

When we crucify people like Bill Cosby and Toby Turner in the press or on social media, we create a culture of divisiveness and hearsay.  We create situations where people siding with the accused attack the accuser.  I have no doubt that people supporting Toby Turner are attacking his accuser right now.  She does not deserve that.

When someone accuses someone of rape on social media, we need to focus our attention on the accuser and give them help and support, rather than focus on the accused and destroy them.  No harm will come to anyone by supporting the accuser.  If the accuser is lying, they’ll get some attention they may not deserve, but it won’t hurt anyone.  On the other hand, if the accuser is lying and you destroy the career of the accused, then you’ve perpetrated a gross injustice against someone innocent.  The kind of damage that is irreparable.

One other point before I close this uncomfortable post… when we write blog posts or news articles passing on the story of the accusation, it is vital that we be accurate and fair.  Cherry-picking details in order to make the story bigger should be criminal.  For example, the article from PerezHilton.com that I linked at the top mentions Jaclyn Glenn coming forward and corroborating April Turner’s story.  It is a little misleading.  Jaclyn Glenn did mention that Toby pressured her into the things, but she also made it clear that she didn’t think Toby was capable of rape.

This whole story with Toby Turner is troubling.  If he did it, then he deserves to be punished.  Whether he did it or not, his career is probably finished.  That is a real shame if he is innocent.  And realistically, there isn’t anything he can do about it.

We can do better than this.  It starts with making it easier for victims to seek justice via the proper route: the police.  The alternative is anarchy, and creating a culture that is toxic for both the victim and the accused.