The unbelievable shitstorm surrounding the Rolling Stone story about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia isn't showing the slightest signs of dying down. The numerous and serious questions about how the story was handled have all pretty much been outlined; now, God help us, it's time for adorable trolls like Ann Coulter and Chuck C. Johnson to emerge from underground to tell us about how rape isn't real.
That's because the UVA controversy has allowed every far-right pundit to sing their favorite song right out loud: rape is rare, women lie about it all the time, and anybody who says different is doing so in the service of a twisted political agenda. From our little buddies over at Red State: "[T]he claim of a "rape culture" is simply a political tool used to bludgeon men into obedience, to engrain in the national psyche that women are victims, and to increase the political spoils of the radical, man-hating, feminist left."
In response to this kind of rhetoric, prominent, well-respected women are beginning to share their own stories of rape and sexual assault, stories they'd been reluctant to disclose before now. In the pages of the Washington Post this week—the paper that's been most dedicated to unraveling the UVA story—Cairo Bureau Chief Abigail Hauslohner wrote about her experience of being raped in high school by a friend, an older boy she trusted enough to go visit him for a weekend on his college campus.
At 17, Hauslohner writes, she already knew what would likely happen if she reported the rape:
While even the most self-aware American women and girls don't necessarily know how to avoid date rape, most of them probably know what happens to rape victims when they go public. As a 17-year-old, I knew that rape victims were torn apart in court — that defense lawyers scrutinized their personal lives, their sexual histories, even their clothes. I imagined my life coming down around me; my name in the newspaper; my friends, neighbors, parents and coaches turning against me; my fragile teenage self rendered an outcast; my future destroyed.
Most of all, I had heard enough about rape to know that you needed evidence. And I had none.
Two days had passed before I was able to admit to myself that I had been raped — long enough for any semen to wash away, for X to throw away the condom and clean up the dorm room.
And on our own site this week, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten (pictured above) wrote for the first time about the man who attempted to rape her after her junior year of college, an experience that has stayed with her for decades. She adds:
One in four women will be sexually assaulted in college. Sadly, only a tiny fraction of the victims will file a report, in part because our culture tells them that they are to blame—the same culture that has kept me from speaking out for nearly 30 years.
Predictably, because Weingarten is a union leader and a well-known progressive, a few of the responses to her were fairly nasty (and occasionally kind of nonsensical). Here's Chuck C. Johnson on Twitter, calling Weingarten, casually, "a liar," but magnanimously saying he won't print her home address on his website, something he's done in the past with a pair of reporters who displeased him:
These stories aren't going to stop. More and more prominent survivors are going to step forward with their own stories about rape and sexual assault and how they impacted their lives, whether it's in response to the UVA story or the dozens of disturbing allegations against Bill Cosby (it was just a week ago that supermodel Beverly Johnson alleged that she, too, was drugged by him).
In the meantime, we'll close with a comment from Weingarten, whom we contacted to respond to Johnson's remarks. She told us this:
I shared my story to pull back the curtain of silence, not to relive the experience or get anyone in trouble. I expected the trolls to come out on Twitter—as they have repeatedly and reflexively done—but what I didn't expect was the avalanche of support I have received from so many, from our nation's students to our nation's leaders. That kind of support is what's needed on our college campuses; it will help change the culture and eclipse those who continue to brutalize survivors of sexual assault by refusing to take these issues seriously.
Image via AP