Believe Survivors

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Survivors of Sexual and Domestic Violence Need Us to Believe Them. So When Will We?

“Perhaps most important to know, is that those who abuse, assault, or rape others (or even those who attempt to abuse, assault, or rape others) do so because they know that long after the actual act is over, that they will once again have the most important power of all. And that is the power to be believed as the “good guy,” despite any claims to the contrary, because our culture does not believe survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Especially if those survivors are women, BIPOC, or both.

There is so much separation, hate, doubt, and resentment out there in the world - especially when it comes to our current political life in America.

It’s been this way for awhile. The separation, hate, doubt, and resentment I mean. It started about twenty years ago, when the Republicans started turning to dog-whistle politics, race-baiting, and gerry-mandering even more than they used to. It amped up when they started using Fox news as their de-facto propaganda machine masquerading as a “trustworthy” and “fair” media outlet. It reached a fever-pitch during the 2016 election, when an experienced, pragmatic woman lost to a unqualified, un-experienced, impractical demagogue. And today, we enter another sad chapter of this American political division, when professor Christine Blasey-Ford will testify against Brett Kavanaugh in front of the United States Senate, to bring her story of sexual assault at the hands of the man who is at the precipice of holding the highest judgeship in all the land.

She is doing this even though she will be raked through the mud. She is doing this even though she will not be believed. She is doing this even though will be belittled, talked-down-to, and bullied. She is doing this even though she will be re-traumatized all over again. And Mrs. Blasey-Ford is doing this because I imagine she believes that an act of attempted rape, is an abuse of power. And someone who is used to abusing power and getting away with it has no place interpreting the law for generations of Americans to come.

Those who attempt to rape, assault, or abuse others do so because they feel that their power over the person or the situation enables and entitles them to take advantage of, and cause harm to; another human being. I think that the abusers in our society do so because they know - they have the power. The power to physically control another human being simply by being bigger or stronger; the power to mentally control another human being due to their powers of manipulation and emotional abuse; or their power to economically control another human being because they are the boss, the gate-keeper, or the holder of the purse-strings. And most importantly, the abusers know that once the actual act of abuse, assault, or rape is over, they will once again have the most important power of all: to continue to be believed as “the good guy” despite any claims to the contrary, because our culture does not believe victims, does not believe survivors, does not believe women, does not believe people of color, does not believe indigenous people, does not believe trans people, does not believe immigrants, and does not believe members of the LGBTQ community.

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America needs to get to the bottom of their biases when it comes to who they believe.

Those who attempt to rape, assault, or abuse others do so because they feel that their power over the person or the situation enables and entitles them to do so. An assault or attempted rape is more than garden-variety abuse. It is an abuse of power. And someone who has shown a history of abusing their power at the expense of someone else’s wellbeing has no right to sit on the Supreme Court and interpret laws for generations of Americans to come.



Perhaps this impermeability to the consequences of abuse comes down to the power these people hold in our society writ large. Perhaps they know that because they have money, influence, lots of connections, a deep network, deep pockets, a track-record of “good works”, an impeccable resume and name-brand credentials, that there is NO WAY our society - one that rewards outside achievements and personal wealth - would turn on them and believe their accuser. But most importantly of all - those who abuse, assault, or rape others know they have, apart from whatever societal power they own, an element of “trustworthiness” because we simply do not believe these survivors.

This is a sad, but true fact. We must continue to do the work required to change this. And I hope it changes - for good, and for real, no hashtag required - in my lifetime. In a society that does not believe survivors of abuse, does not value the claims of victims - especially when their abusers are those who hold the reins of power and money - we will never be truly free from corruption at the hands of the powerful. I hope that what America sees on television today proves me wrong, but my expectations indeed are low.

Keep your standards high, America. Expect more from people, and hold those who abuse their power over others to account, and bring some justice and peace to those who have suffered much. Believe survivors of abuse, assault, and rape. Hold fair and just trials. Gather evidence, and get to the bottom of your bias when it comes to who you believe.

This troubled atmosphere is our current reality. It is very bad, but it is reality. My feeling is that if this present atmosphere in which everything depends on money and power continues, and if there is not much concern about the value of love, and if human society loses the value of justice, the value of compassion, the value of honesty ... we will in the next generation or farther in the future face greater difficulties and more suffering.  Thus, although to bring about inner change is difficult, it is absolutely worthwhile to try. This is my firm belief. What is important is that we try our best. Wether or not we succeed is a different question. Even if we could not achieve what we seek within this life, it is all right. At least we will have made the attempt to form a better human society on the basis of love -- true love -- and less selfishness.

- the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, (His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso)