Gavin de Becker’s work on threat assessment highlights 5 responses we employ to invalidate our intuition. These same responses are used to invalidate a survivor’s report of sexual violence. For example:
Denial – The survivor is lying, fabricating, or making it up.
Because they were — drunk/have a cognitive or intellectual disability/are a member of “x” identity group — their report isn’t believable.
I know _______ (fill in rapist’s name) … they would never do that.
If we deny a survivor’s report as truthful, we perpetuate rape culture.
Rationalization – The survivor isn’t really reporting sexual assault.
If the victim did not fight back, then it isn’t rape.
The victim is a sex worker, so it isn’t rape.
If we rationalize the aggressor’s actions, we perpetuate rape culture.
Minimization – What happened isn’t that big a deal.
It was a miscommunication.
Consent is a grey area.
It was just rough sex, that isn’t a crime.
If we minimize what happened, we perpetuate rape culture.
Justification – The aggressor thinks they have a right to assault the victim/The victim was asking for it.
I’m entitled to it.
They came on to me.
They should be flattered.
If we justify the aggressor’s actions, we perpetuate rape culture.
Excuse making – Boys will be boys.
Men can’t help themselves.
They don’t know better.
The age difference shouldn’t matter.
If we make excuses for the aggressor, we perpetuate rape culture.
Instead, let’s stick with our instinct (and humanity) and respond to people who tell us they have been sexually assaulted like this: “I believe you. I am sorry that happened to you. How can I support you?”