Hypothesis Of Why We’re So Empathetic To People Accused Of Sexual Assault…

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

…I think there are a number of reasons.

And I also think I’m not an expert in sexual assault. I’m not a doctor or someone who really knows what she’s talking about when it comes to this stuff…

But I still have a slight hypothesis as to at least one reason people are so often empathetic with people accused of harassment or assault… And I think it’s maybe because we don’t want it to be us…

So many stories of sexual assault are stories of a “night gone wrong” with people who know each other. And I think – especially as the conversation about assault gets louder and louder – that people are afraid they’re gonna kind of “accidentally” assault someone.

…And that’s a weird thing to think, right? That someone could even do that accidentally? But I have a number of friends – even guys I’ve slept with before, so I know(!) how kind and attentive they are in bed – who are either a) scared of “accidental” assault or b) have a “gray area” story, usually from when they were younger and we didn’t talk about this stuff as much, and a girl felt taken advantage of because maybe he didn’t realize how drunk she was, or maybe he didn’t realize how hard he was pushing if she was unsure…

I know so many people with one or two iffy stories in their past, and nobody wants to feel like they assaulted someone…

Even I can think of little things I’ve wondered about, now that I’ve been thinking oh so much about consent and the issues surrounding it… I don’t get drunk often at all… But one night, I was drunk. And I was out with friends, and we all were drunk. And on of my suuuuuper hot drunk friends (whom I’ve known for years) was like, “Make out with me!” And I didn’t think to say, “Wait. Am I taking advantage of you? I know I’m drunk too, but still. Are we for sure the same level of drunk and is it an acceptable level to make out with you?” I just said “OKAY.” And we did. And it was really freaking fun.

And a group of us fell asleep at their house and in the morning, we both talked (soberly) about how fun the night and making out was. [I had thought we both were only a lil’ drunk – that we still had our brains about us enough, and thankfully that seemed to be the case. But in a different universe, that night could’ve potentially maybe gone a different way.] I dunno.

That story doesn’t seem like a big deal, and thankfully in that instance it wasn’t. I’m just saying, I see. I see how a situation that doesn’t seem like a big deal could turn into one if the night goes another way. And if it even could maybe happen to us – that we could maaaaaaybe misjudge a situation and become an “assaulter,” then seemingly nobody can be one. ‘Cause if no one can be one, we can’t either…

I *think* that’s why some of us are so quick to dismiss assault because we’re afraid of a situation gone wrong – of trying to be fun or adorable or silly or sexy or carefree or something and accidentally being abusive.

I don’t know how often that actually happens. (I bet not often even at all, ’cause that’s not really how it works… For the super super super duper most part, assault is not just a really nice aware person accidentally making a misstep…) But I know it’s a fear (as I’ve heard many people talk about it). We give empathy to the perpetrator, because we’d want someone to give empathy to us.

And I get that. I’ve done that! And that’s kind of kind and human of us to be empathetic…

And I understand the idea of “innocent until proven guilty” (even though sexual assault is so hard to prove) .

But my goodness, from the other side now, I understand in this visceral way how hard it is to hear people (especially your perpetrator) get the benefit of the doubt… I’m not saying we lose empathy or we lose skepticism…

I’m just saying I have no idea what the answers are…

I'd love to hear from you! So whaddya say?