famalaoan / politiku

On Rape

For some odd reason, I find myself today thinking about the way powerful old men tend to respond to claims of rape or sexual harassment.

They ask for tangible evidence, laugh at you, tell you they’ve been accused themselves, tell you false accusations ruin men’s lives, threaten you with libel, tell you “that’s just the way things are,” tell you “men have their needs,” tell you the best thing to do is just be quiet and play the game, tell you they won’t do anything to offend the powerful white men at your institution (yes, all of this I have been told by powerful men AND POWERFUL WOMEN, AND POWERFUL INDIGENOUS WOMEN, AND SELF-DECLARED FEMINISTS).  (Oh yes, I know Susan Collinses.  I recognized her quite well.)

Even Bill Cosby, with 60+ accusers, still has his defenders.  Even Michael Ehlert, convicted in a court of law for goodness’ sake, has MANY powerful and well-to-do men and women, both, here on Guam who would seek to excuse him or weasel around the violence.  Many also consider themselves progressives — I imagine they would not wish to support such an extremist as KavaNOPE publicly — and do everything they can to avoid acknowledging the contradiction.

The facts are that often rape or sexual harassment (especially the latter) leave no tangible evidence, similar to a verbal assault or a theft of property.  Yet why is it that multiple accusations from completely different sources of the same crime are not taken seriously?

The fact is that “false” or recanted rape accusations are vanishingly rare:

Overall, an estimated 8 to 10 percent of women are thought to report their rapes to the police, which means that — at the very highest — we can infer that 90 percent of rapes go unreported, says [Joanne] Belknap [a sociologist, criminologist, and professor at the University of Colorado Boulder]. Obviously, only those rapes that are reported in the first place can be considered falsely reported, so that 5 percent figure only applies to 10 percent (at most) of rapes that occur. This puts the actual false allegation figure closer to 0.005 percent (i.e., five percent of ten percent), says Belknap.  Source: The Cut (New York Magazine)

There’s no question.  She’s not lying.  Of course men routinely rape and harass women.  Frat brats assaulting a young woman is so normalized.  They don’t even conceptualize it as criminal, nor does our society as a whole.  THAT is the problem.

Do you not see, logically, if false rape accusations were such a formidable weapon against conservative men, every single one of them from George W. Bush (who was hated) to Mitt Romney (despised) would have faced public accusations?  Yet W. and Romney never had a whisper, despite being abhorred and attacked by the left.  They simply hadn’t done it, and false accusations are so rare (and ALSO, public accusations are so indescribably painful and difficult for the woman who has to come forward to be pilloried) that no one used that.

It’s not such a great weapon.  Clarence Thomas sits on the Court.  Donald Trump is president.  The storm against them went nowhere.  Their lives are wonderful: they are rich and powerful and respected.  If they fall, if Trump falls, it won’t be for his crimes against women.

It reminds me of Samuel T. Shinohara, the monster who forced women into sexual slavery during Tiempon Chapones here on Guam.  One young woman, Alfonsina Flores, a weaver from Inalåhan, and her parents testified that, at age 17, she was threatened by Shinohara with the murder of her family members, and ripped from her family home.

What do you say, oh-so-skeptical old white men?  Are you able to “believe” the he said / she said of the young Alfonsina Flores?  What about a supposedly promiscuous woman like Nicolasa Mendiola, asked about her sexual history in court? is she believable?

What do you say, you dubiously prim women who benefit materially, financially, and professionally from silence and complicity?  Do you think Alfonsina Flores, her parents, and Nicolasa Mendiola might deserve justice?

Truly monstrous.

Anyway, this is all in the records of Shinohara’s trial by the American military forces after the War.  But it is a small and somewhat inconsequential part of the charges: mostly, he was in trouble for treason.  He served, I think, fifteen years in prison, then came back, lived out his life here on Guam, among the same people he terrorized.  His descendants are members of a very powerful family today, but that name, “Shinohara,” keeps recurring in arrest and conviction reports: Gil Shinohara; Gracialla Shinohara Shelton.  Patterns repeat.

When I look at the discourse around this Supreme Court nomination, I’m most struck that I really thought our country had come further since Anita Hill and Thomas.  This is truly an attempt to rewind the clock.  I thought I had no illusions left to lose as to how far people would go to protect mediocre white men.

I remember when I visited the office of our senator from Illinois, Carol Moseley Braun, the first and then the only woman of color (an African-American woman) in the Senate (Patsy Mink and Shirley Chisholm were elected to the House in the 1960s).  It wasn’t very long ago, well within my lifetime, that a woman of color in the D.C. halls of power was an utter anomaly.  Certainly in my grandmothers’ and great-grandmothers’ day, powerful women were even rarer.

Today, that has changed, but only slightly.  Congress is still dominated by (old, old, old) white men and a handful of passive, complicit, silent women, as is my (FORMER, THANK GOD) college and university.  Possibly our grandchildren will have a world that is safer and freer.  I’m so fed up with this incremental two-step.

I hope we are watching the pathetic last splutters of white supremacy in the U.S.  I don’t know.  I do live in a modern-day U.S. colony; it really brings the intersectional inequality home.




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