Believe all survivors of sexual assault, not just women

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In light of the recent Kavanaugh hearing, the conversation around sexual assault has grown, leading to mantras such as #MeToo and #VoteForWomen.

The discussion is necessary to recognize the crippling shame and guilt that so many people face after these abusive experiences.

The movement has been beneficial in a variety of ways, but when propaganda takes precedence over truth, the real issue can become obscured.

This is nothing new, as it is the case with every social movement.

There was a specific mantra used in hashtags and captions and written on protest signs that I believe obscures the real issue: “Believe Women.”

Sexual assault is not only a narrative of men violating women.

Many men are survivors of sexual assault as well, and abuse can occur in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships.

The phrase “Believe Women” fails to encompass the variety of situations in which abuse occurs.

The other subtle message is that women are always telling the truth.

All women?

Is “woman” a cosmic entity that moves and acts as one?

What if you are a woman who has experienced sexual assault and some of the most influential people in your life telling you that it was your fault are women? What if women perpetuate toxic ideas about consent, too?

The message that women are always right and always telling the truth is a generalization that operates to both romanticize women and obscure the real issue of sexual assault.

The belief that women are less competent, less intelligent and somehow less qualified than their male counterparts perpetuates sexism.

Most people recognize this form of blatant prejudice when they see it.

But the much more subtle, and sometimes much more sinister, form of sexism is the blind belief that women are inherently morally superior to men.

Women are kinder, more compassionate and more honest, in addition to being just as competent as men.

Women don’t lie, believe women.

This categorizes women in a way that dehumanizes them.

Humans are nuanced, humans make mistakes. Women make mistakes.

Just because a generalization is positive

does not make it any less sexist or any less confining.

In the case of sexual assault, where studies show that the majority of the time when survivors come forward with an allegation, it is true, there is substantial reason to believe those who come forward.

In most cases, there is nothing to be gained from a false accusation, especially when that accusation is relative to a family member or friend (most sexual assault is committed between people who have a prior close relationship).

We should be wary of propaganda that seeks to inflame righteous anger without seeking a broader perspective.

The #MeToo movement was necessary in several ways, but it cannot be used to paint a specific narrative that does not reflect the complexity of reality.

In the spirit of two-word mantras, my grammatical advice would be to hold up a sign that reads “Believe Survivors.”