Post Letter: Reporting rape takes incredible courage

News Section:

I want to write today as a concerned alumnus of Ohio University. Even though I no longer live in Athens, the news of a very public sexual assault that occurred last weekend has troubled me a great deal.

The fact that the event was posted on social media is tragic, and the fact that so many people have attempted to defend the man involved is disheartening. Many people who have seen video or pictures of the assault, or simply read about it on Facebook, Twitter, BuzzFeed, or local media, have expressed skepticism about this being, to use a rather ugly phrase, a legitimate case of sexual assault.

I wish to dispel some of this skepticism. First, consider the facts. We know that a man engaged in some sort of sexual contact with a woman on a sidewalk, in plain view. We also know that this woman has filed a complaint with the authorities. We know she has told them that he was a stranger. All of this can be found in previous issues of The Post.

Those facts give no reason to believe that this is an embarrassed woman crying wolf about rape to save her reputation. Still, speculation persists.

What these misguided skeptics fail to realize is that it takes incredible courage for a woman to come forward and report a rape. Why? Because, by reporting this rape, this woman has opened herself up to massive public scrutiny, in part due to those who have a knee-jerk reaction to express skepticism every time rape is alleged. Reporting a rape is not an easy road for a woman to take. She will be asked deep and probing questions about the night’s events. She will be forced to relive those traumatic moments during the legal proceedings. Many will assume the worst when it comes to questions of her character. Few women would falsely report a rape because, simply put, there are few incentives to do so. Women have virtually nothing to gain by falsely reporting a rape. However, they have much to lose when they report a rape, whether it occurred or otherwise.

To those of you who, perhaps out of instinct, assume a woman is lying when she says she was raped, I ask this: what reason do you have to think this? I think that, upon consideration, you’ll find yourself severely lacking justification for this response.

Jared Henderson is a 2013 OU alumnus who studied philosophy and served as the Honors Tutorial College Senator for Student Senate.

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