Every time that there is a scandal involving sexual assault front and center, we are told to wait. Wait for more information. Wait for the evidence Law & Order and CSI has promised us. Wait for a judge or jury to tell us how to proceed.
Wait to ruin this man's reputation until we know it needs ruined.
There is rarely concern for those that come forward. There are many questions: Was there a rape kit? Why is she crying? Why is she not crying? Why was she there? Is it worth going into that line of work? Shouldn't she have thought that through? What is she gaining from this?
There is rarely concern or a desire to help those with stories of the most intimate of crimes to heal.
Instead, we wonder aloud and in comboxes how long a man must repent before we believe him. We wonder how this will devastate his career. We accept the standard apology and use the sliver of good and the false pillar of the community reputation to defend our continued support. We latch on to any good thing we've ever heard about the accused because we don't want to know.
We tell young girls that the boys pull their hair and hurt them because they like them.
We tell young girls to be pretty but do not explain.
We say that boys will be boys and caution our daughters about locker room behavior. We teach them to ignore cat calls and to smile. We tell them, if they are polite enough, it will all be okay.
We ignore that predators are very skilled at knowing their environment. We ignore that they know how to make grandiose gestures that make them seem an unlikely predator. We ignore that we laugh off their fondness for young girls or their tendency to get too handsy. We tell women about their patterns and then say "Don't say we didn't warn you."
We do not hold sexual criminals accountable.
As friends, family, and advocates for victims and survivors of sexual assault (both make and female alike) it is not our job to determine the legal 'guilty' or 'not guilty' verdict. It is our duty to listen and believe. It is our duty to be supportive and to help survivors heal. It is our duty to tell predators that we know and they must change and be held accountable.
Why do victims not report? Why do they wait years before coming forward?
They are told no one believe them and then they see no one believing others. They see the high esteem in which their attackers are held. They are ashamed. They need to heal.
Why doesn't every survivor get the needed evidence by submitting to a rape kit?
Because they are costly and victims are still sometimes responsible for that cost.
Because they don't always get tested.
Because they are not always available.
Because they do not know where to go.
Because in the immediate aftermath of being violated so intimately by a person you likely trusted, they only thing that makes sense is to wash it away to make it go away and rape kits can feel like the opposite of that.
Because pressing charges puts your career and other things you hold dear at risk.
Because sometimes DNA evidence doesn't matter.
As friends, family, and advocates standing against these crimes, we need to support the survivors in any way we can and demand the correct treatment for the accused. We need to expect personal accountably and blame where it belongs: with the predator. We need to expect a sincere apology that includes taking responsibility, a focus on the wrong that was done, appropriate punishment and treatment.