Congratulations, you finally believe women! Great news, you’ve finally decided to believe women about their experiences with rape and sexual assault!
The current news cycle about the allegations against presidential nominee Joe Biden has suddenly brought a lot of men out of the woodwork — and into women’s Twitter mentions and Instagram feeds — who have a lot to say about an issue that they hadn’t previously given much mind to.
Some, as usual, are there to deride women or express skepticism at any allegation of sexual wrongdoing — but there are also a notable number of men speaking out in favor of believing women. That’s great! (Even if the timing feels a bit convenient.)
But whether you’re here because of Biden, the many (many) women who have accused Donald Trump of rape or sexual assault, or just #MeToo in general — we’re happy to have you. Even if we might be a little irritated that it took you this long to get here.
Now that you’ve committed to caring about the impact that sexual violence has had on women’s lives, here are a few tips to help you adjust:
- Consider that you may not actually know what you’re talking about. One of the more frustrating parts of being a feminist or anti-sexual violence expert right now is watching pundits (armchair and actual) confidently talk or write about rape and sexual assault allegations without the expertise to back it up. Please know that there are people out there who have dedicated their lives to this issue, and they probably know a lot more than you do.
- I know it may feel difficult, but caring about one sexual misconduct allegation means caring about all of them. You can’t pick and choose based on your political affiliation. So if you’re (rightly) concerned about the allegations about Biden, you should also be furious about Trump — and vice versa. Believing women is a bipartisan affair, not a matter of political convenience.
- Don’t use your newfound interest in violence against women as a “gotcha.” If you believe Tara Reade, for example, please don’t rail against women who still plan to vote for Joe Biden.
- Women and people in other marginalized communities know the consequences of another Trump term, and are sadly accustomed to voting for whichever candidate looks the least harmful. Women’s experiences of violence are not your political cudgel.
- Resist the urge to make men’s behavior women’s responsibility. When you talk about sexual assault and allegations against powerful men, are you looking to the women around them to answer for that bad behavior? Are you livid that their wife is standing by them, or hoping a reporter will ask that female colleague how they feel about the accusations? Women are not the only people who are capable of caring about and taking action on sexual assault, and they’re certainly not responsible for men’s bad behavior.
- Consider taking real action. Truly caring about rape and sexual assault is not a flash in the pan concern — when this political moment is over, I hope you will still be calling out double standards in the media, or cultural victim-blaming. Maybe you could even donate some money to an organization working to stop sexual violence or volunteer your time to the cause. Look to a domestic violence shelter in your town, ask a rape crisis center in your neighborhood if they need help, or find out what supplies a college women’s center might need.
Again, as frustrating as it is to feel that some men in politics and beyond are late to the party (and not necessarily here for the right reasons), more men taking on this issue is not such a terrible thing. After all, with men committing the vast majority of sex crimes, one might argue this isn’t a women’s issue as much as it is a men’s one. More importantly — we need your voices and help. But you’re new here, so please listen to the women around you. It’s good to believe women. Just trust us about how to help, too.