Popsugar Reading Challenge category: Your favorite prompt from the 2021 Popsugar challenge (A book about a social justice issue)
Book: Credible: Why We Doubt Accusers and Protect Abusers, by Deborah Tuerkheimer
Credible, by a former prosecutor, addresses why certain crimes bring a knee-jerk reaction of disbelieving/dismissing victims and circling the wagons around abusers. With domestic violence and sexual assault in particular, there's the demand for the "perfect" victim, as articulated in Marge Piercy's poem The Gray Flannel Sexual Harassment Suit: chaste, modestly dressed, never touching alcohol, etc. They must resist "enough," but not so much that it could be called "mutual violence." There's also the expectation that the assailant be some sort of drooling monster; it's disconcerting to see an accusation against someone who looks just like your next-door neighbor. And while false reports are in the single-digit percentages and usually don't involve a named suspect, the mythology has been thoroughly drilled into all our heads that there are armies of women out there scheming to make false accusations, subjecting themselves to scorn and threats in order to achieve...what, exactly?
Teuerkheimer notes that victims must clear three hurdles: showing that the violation happened, that it was wrong (ie, they didn't "ask for it"), and that it matters enough to do something about it. The third hurdle is often the most difficult one with institutions (colleges, churches, the military); even when they are aware that harm was done, it's often easier to protect the institution and sacrifice the victim. She gives an example of "restorative justice" that seems unduly rosy in my opinion, but she also notes the shortcomings of that approach.
Tuerkheimer lays out a familiar problem in a clear-sighted, understandable way, and seems particularly timely in the era of anti-#MeToo backlash.