The Power Of Being Believed Is Vital To Survivors

Victims of violence who come forward need to be believed rather than doubted.

Being believed.

It’s something most of us take for granted.

When we report having our pocket picked, our car sideswiped or our identity stolen, we count on sympathy and support.

But too often that isn’t the case when a woman is raped, sexually harassed or abused by a partner – and not being believed is a searing experience that can compound the pain from the assault itself.

He’s such a nice guy. I don’t believe he’d do that. Are you sure you didn’t lead him on? All couples fight.

Comments like those make it harder for women to report these crimes, to demand justice, to fight for the punishment and penalties that may avert the next incident or attack. For women without some measure of power, it can be all but impossible.

So when President Trump defended Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly against a new round of charges of sexual harassment last week, that pain re-surfaced for millions of women who have endured similar crimes.

I don’t think Bill did anything wrong. He’s a good person.

Millions of survivors felt real anguish and real pain when they heard the President’s words. Still others internalized them, deepening the fear that they won’t be believed if they report sexual harassment, assault or domestic violence.

That is a tragedy. One of our nation’s proudest accomplishments over the last 20 years has been a dramatic reduction in incidents of domestic violence. Without question, this violence is still a huge problem – but we’ve identified and invested in effective ways to prevent it and help survivors.

Our progress began with helping women speak out about the assaults they were experiencing and making sure that, when they did, authorities would believe them.

Comments like the President made undermine our progress. We can’t let that happen. We all have to take a stand, publicly and in our own lives, so victims of violence who come forward are believed rather than doubted. That’s the only way our progress can continue.