Even if Julian Assange is exonerated to the satisfaction of all and sundry, it will still be true that:
- Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann, and plenty of other people with far less influence have published information about Assange’s accusers, including their names and enough personal information to allow the truly sadistic types to locate and harm them. (Though I suppose some might make the argument that this would be a form of justice if the accusers were lying. Because women who lie about being raped deserve to actually be raped. We’ll give them something to lie about!)
- Michael Moore and others have mischaracterized the nature of the accusations against Assange, repeating the tired “sex by surprise” and “broken condom” rumors rather than acknowledging that Assange is actually accused of using force to hold one woman down and penetrating another while she was asleep, acts which would be considered rape under any definition. (Well, unless you’re Naomi Wolf. And if you’re Naomi Wolf, please, for the love of god, get a GRIP on yourself.) This was perhaps slightly understandable when the accusations first aired, when the reporting was spotty and Assange’s attorneys were making disingenuous statements and no one had yet thought to ask Professor Google about whether the Swedish legal code really criminalizes unprotected consensual sex (for crying out loud, of course it doesn’t; as Kate Harding said on Twitter, “Seriously, where the hell do @MMFlint, @KeithOlbermann & friends think Swedish babies come from?”), but by the time Michael Moore got around to sneering about this on Countdown there was just no excuse for repeating that mendacious bullshit.
- Sady Doyle and various other feminists who have spoken out on this subject have been subjected to rape and death threats. Speak out against rape culture and watch, amazed and repulsed, as various misogynistic creepy-crawlies slither out of the woodwork to try their damnedest to make you regret it.
- Trolls (many of whom were clearly men tweeting from fake or anonymous accounts; what are they afraid of? It’s not like they’re going to be threatened with sexual violence) are posting rape jokes and other pretty vile stuff under the #MooreandMe hashtag because, oh lolz, you guys, there are like so many women who have been raped reading those tweets right now, and we will make them so sorry for that, we will remind them that they’re not safe, not anywhere, not ever. And it’ll be hilarious.
None of these things will cease to be true at any point. None of these things will cease to be completely and overwhelmingly fucked-up at any point.
And women like me who have been fortunate enough never to have been raped are watching this unfold, and some of us are feeling that sinking dread, that nausea, that comes with the realization that if we ever are raped, this is also what we will face if we make the mistake of thinking we deserve to be heard. I can’t speak for all of those women, but I know that for me, at least, this has been horrifying enough to witness even from my relatively comfortable vantage point. I’m not an accuser and I’m not high-profile enough to draw attention; I’m nobody, really, just some person tweeting and re-tweeting and clicking links and snickering at Keith Olbermann’s repeated flounces.
But I’m also watching very, very carefully. And wondering who will rape me, and how much society will punish me for it.
I know that regardless of the outcome in this situation, I have nothing to answer for. I wonder if rape apologists can say the same.