A distasteful and disturbing, necessary leap

Dear President Trump,

Last night as I was trying to fall asleep I was thinking about the advent of cell phones and how regular citizens’ having the ability to videotape police encounters with African American men (mostly) has made it possible for us to start breaking through the walls of bias that have most white people believing that police actions are always justified. If we are honest about it, I think most of us who grew up believing that police officers are our friends would not have been willing to believe these unjustified killings were happening if we never saw those videos. The eyewitness accounts of black people were not going to outweigh the accounts of the authority figures that white people are trained to revere.

Obviously it’s only a small proportion of police shootings that are witnessed and filmed, but it’s still far more likely that a police shooting will be filmed than a sexual assault. There are only two situations when it might be possible to capture an objective audio or visual record of a sexual assault. One is when there is a predictable pattern to the assaults, such as in the case of incest or rape that takes place in the context of an ongoing relationship. Here, a determined and creative victim could arrange to audiotape an assault because she or he knows the pattern. The second is when boys film each other gang raping a girl. Most assaults, however, happen in private with only two people present behind closed doors and are not predictable. The victim is not going to be able to film or tape the incident and thus there will be nothing for anyone else to see.

I know this is incredibly obvious, but I think it is important that people (men in particular) grapple with the reality that just because they can’t see what happened and they can’t imagine that their good friend, who is such a great guy, would ever do such a thing, he really very well may have done such a thing. This is very hard – it’s a distasteful and disturbing leap to make about anyone and it’s especially hard to make about someone you’ve admired or who you think is a lot like you. But if that leap is not made, girls and women will continue to be thrown under fleets of busses because boys and men will know they can get away with horrible shit because other boys and men will privilege their word over their female victims’ word every time.

May we be safe.
May we be willing to deal with the reality of sexual violence.
May we take care of each one’s health.
May our lives unfold and intersect peacefully.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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