Victim shaming is not a winning strategy

By Fred . . . Research shows that between 2% and 10% of reported sexual assaults are false accusations. Even though the exact percentages cannot be known and could be higher – or lower – this is a fair estimate.  It is certainly very troubling that this happens, and there is no doubt that many innocent people have been wrongfully accused and punished for crimes they did not commit. However, these same statistics also show that between 90% and 98% of reported sexual assaults are not false accusations, and regardless of whether the actual numbers are higher or lower, it is clear that actual incidents of sexual abuse far outweigh incidents of false accusations.

To automatically take the position that women who come forward with sexual assault allegations are lying is not a winning strategy and can actually cause more harm for our movement than good. The low rate of false accusations is very close to the low rate of recidivism for those convicted of sexual offenses, which is one of NARSOL’s arguments against the registry laws. If we were to say that the number of false accusations is a significant percentage that discredits the majority of true accusations, we would be hypocrites for suggesting, as we do, that the low percentage of recidivism is significant.

Besides advocating for change to the sexual offense and registry laws that we believe to be both morally wrong and unconstitutional, NARSOL also promotes personal growth and healing for those convicted of sexual offenses as well as for the victims of sexual abuse by encouraging a supportive and validating environment for all who may be connected to these issues in any way.

Victims of sexual abuse everywhere should be able to come forward when they are ready to do so and be free of criticism and reprisal. The decision of when and how to come forward is a personal one that only the victim should be able to make for him or herself, regardless of whether it was immediately or decades after the abuse took place.

It is the responsibility of all decent people to withhold judgment and listen to alleged victims with compassion. By following that basic rule of decency, we would not only be helping them find peace and begin healing, but we would also be reinforcing the message to future victims that it is always safe to report the abuse immediately through the proper channels where they will be taken seriously and, IF an investigation supports their narratives, where the abusers will be held accountable.

NARSOL advocates for rational, fact-based laws that serve to promote public safety. We believe that the punishment should fit the crime and that those convicted of sexual offenses should have the same opportunities as those convicted of other crimes to move past their convictions and reenter society after they have served their time and thus become contributing members of their communities.

It is important for registrants who have committed harm to acknowledge and take personal responsibility for past harmful behaviors. When they show compassion and support for victims of sexual abuse and sexual assault who were brave enough to come forward amid potential backlash, they are effectively demonstrating that those convicted of sexual offenses truly can grow and correct the errors in their ways and that there is no rational reason to fear them. This helps to erase the stereotypical views and create a healthy and safe environment for all.

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