Rechkemmer: I believe women

Columnist Gracie Rechkemmer chooses to believe the side culture does not. 

Gracie Rechkemmer

As a woman, I live much of my life in fear of men. 

This fear is not always active or acute, but it is always in the back of my mind. It causes me to flinch away when a man, even a trusted one, raises his voice. It causes me to stay at home rather than risk finding myself alone in the dark. It causes my heart rate to rise and my fight or flight response to kick in when I feel the eyes of an unknown man upon me. I experience this fear on a daily basis, and I am one of the lucky ones. I have never been assaulted, never preyed on by a stranger, never betrayed by a man I was supposed to trust. 

Many women cannot say the same. 

Women face gender-based violence every day, and college students are particularly at risk. I am sure you have read the statistics — almost 25 percent of undergraduate females experience rape or sexual assault during college. Further, 80 percent of these assaults go unreported. Women choose not to report assaults for multiple reasons. They may fear judgment, not want to harm the perpetrator or believe law enforcement will do nothing to help them. However, one of the most concerning reasons why women choose not to report sexual violence is the tendency of peers and outsiders to engage in victim blaming. They question the victim’s integrity, their actions, their choice of clothing or words. They often claim that either a victim has done something to deserve the violence or is lying about it altogether. 

Why is a woman’s word not enough? 

Honestly, the fact that this is such a controversial issue is astounding to me. This past week, a member of my high school graduating class came forward about inappropriate messages she received from a male teacher. I expected the response to be unconditionally supportive. After all, she was a student at the time, and it is a teacher’s responsibility to protect their students and maintain an appropriate relationship with them.

However, I was disgusted to see support was not the only response. Multiple individuals, both outsiders and fellow classmates, questioned the victim and demanded proof. Even after she provided screenshots of the messages, some people claimed there must be another side. 

Victim blaming is incredibly dangerous, not only to the victim in question but to all women.

I do not want young girls to look at this example — a brave woman who stood up against her abuser — and see a lack of support and respect. I do not want young girls to grow up in fear of experiencing violence from men or of reporting said violence. We need to create a culture that allows women to feel strong and safe and takes any violence against them seriously. Yes, it is possible for a woman to lie about sexual assault, but this occurs far less frequently than actual assault. The vast majority of women who accuse men of abuse are telling the truth. They are victims, and we are treating them as offenders. This is not the world I want to live in.

I believe women, and you should too.