We use storytelling for many purposes - personal escape and emotional recovery being two of countless functions of fantasy. But sexual assault claims should not be treated as fantasy with self-serving functions the way they are today. It takes unbelievable courage to speak up about an experience considered deeply personal - especially in the very common case that the perpetrator is not a stranger. Survivors often don’t speak out in fear of reprisal and re-victimization by a criminal justice system with a strong national reputation for failing to take sexual assault cases seriously. Belief. Fostering a national community with a knee-jerk reaction to believe is the first step in creating a safe space for survivors to feel comfortable speaking out, and reversing the trends of victim criminalization, and criminal victimization. Only with the transferral of power from perpetrator to survivor through OUR support will perpetrators think twice before acting. Believe.
The concept for this film arose from the media’s documentation of a disheartening pattern of events that seem to ensue when a survivor finally speaks out. When witnesses for the crime are scarce and perpetrators have a powerful public image, the accused can avoid charges and public shaming by claiming their accusers of malicious scheming for selfish gain. Take the recent allegations made against Dr. Luke, Donald Trump and Bill Cosby. All of them have denied accusations, all of them have claimed the accusations to be lies spun with self-serving purposes. The court has ultimately denied Kesha the termination of her contract with Sony despite her testimonial that her producer raped her. America has chosen a man who believes star-power allows men to “grab women by the pussy,” and simultaneously shouts that “these vicious claims are LIES” to represent our country. And a man accused by over fifty women of drugging and sexual assault has yet to face a day in jail. That speaking out against men with powerful public stature can ultimately end in a backlash against the survivors and lack of retribution via the criminal justice system points to a systematic failure.
Yet even when witnesses to the crime are available and the crime undeniable, the judges and public tend to show a sympathetic bias toward the negative effects on the male perpetrators’ futures. Just two examples are the Steubenville High School rape case of 2012 and People vs. Turner 2016. That a father believes his son’s life should not be ruined for “twenty minutes of action,” or that a judge can qualify his choice to gift Brock Turner with a short prison sentence because he believes “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him” demonstrates the worth of a male athlete over a survivor.
Another case involving an alleged gang-rape by three University of Oregon basketball players in 2014 with national media coverage I did not reference in the film had my college campus divided over the nature of sexual assault for months. The university ultimately decided to settle the case a year later, making no criminal charges but banning the players from campus and paying the survivor $800,000 in addition to providing her with free tuition. The presence of this case on my own campus, with activists outside drowning out my professor’s words with megaphones left me in a storm of people with conflicting opinions and interests where money, power, allegations, and the definition of sexual consent were called into question. The situation left me confused. Money can hush problems, but it certainly does not solve them.
The five cases referenced in this film are “popular” cases in that they are widely known and debated over. You can find a list of the videos that I pulled audio from under a Fair Use claim below. I chose to compile these five popular cases because if this ugly pattern persists in the public’s eye, who’s to say to what extent this problem thrives outside of social media’s reach?
Something has to be wrong with the way America approaches these allegations if the word of over fifty women against one male comedian has yet to place him in jail, if a news anchor chooses to focus on the sadly-lost, “promising” futures of two “football stars” at the judge’s final verdict, if bringing your abuser to court can jeopardize your career, if our country is comfortable with a future president that degrades the authenticity of his accusers’ claims by publicly belittling their looks, and if a rapist can get out of jail after a mere. Three. Months.
It shouldn’t have to be a fantasy that when we speak, you hear us.
Useful references for more information on how America fails sexual assault survivors:
Links to audio utilized in film’s sound design under Fair Use: