The Academy Awards and Rape Culture

As you may or may not have read in the New York Times this weekend, Dylan Farrow, one of Woody Allen’s adopted children, wrote an open letter in which she describes the experience of having been sexually assaulted at age seven. That people seem to think a child would “make up” such a story to begin with, is heinous. That people continue to believe so after he married another adoptive daughter is ridiculous. And that people automatically dismiss the personal statements made by a grown woman is a fantastic example of life as a victim living in rape culture.

The fact is, we shouldn’t create some sort of arbitrary line saying “We’re rewarding the art, not the person.” People who create art will probably all tell you, their art is part of who they are. It’s the way they express the deepest portions of their soul. So, when one praises the art, they are, inherently, also praising the person. And when box office sales actually directly translate into income for someone like Woody Allen, who is already rich enough, that the income is little more than approval, and support that he should continue to have a stunningly successful career – because that’s how Hollywood functions. That’s especially how Hollywood functions in a rape culture. No one cares or remembers that Mike Tyson was convicted of rape, and as the Times article about the controversy surrounding the Academy Awards this year (in the wake of Farrow’s open letter) notes, Hollywood has gone of out of its way to praise convicted rapists in the past (*cough*Polanski*cough*). It’s an embarrassment to a society which claims to support justice and equality.

When a woman comes forward as a victim, she is instantly attacked again. Interrogated and punished so that everyone can be sure she isn’t making it up. And, unfortunately, I don’t know a way to successfully determine, with concrete evidence, whether a rape has happened or not. I know there are some despicable women who claim to be raped when they have not been, out of spite or desperation, or whatever. But, where else in our criminal justice system is the victim punished merely because he or she can’t provide physical proof he or she is a victim?

Imagine being robbed at gunpoint, then walking into the nearest police station and recounting what just happened. A police officer sits you down, and calls you over to a desk and says, “Well, are you sure you didn’t just hand him your wallet voluntarily? Because if you gave it to him, that was a gift and now you’re just trying to get some attention, you lying whore.”

Then, imagine that during the trial process, rather than presenting evidence to determine whether or not the accused had actually committed the crime, a thorough investigation was conducted determining every penny you ever spent. Imagine that, as a victim,  you were then required to sit on the witness stand and defend, on a case-by-case basis, every time you lent a significant other some money, or you got drunk and left a tip that was abnormally large. Of course that would never happen, because it’s ridiculous – unless, you’re a victim of rape.

So, no, I don’t know how to prevent women from falsely accusing men of rape, but I do know why so many women choose not to report it at all. The way we treat high profile celebrities who have committed rape creates a standard by which it’s suddenly unacceptable to come forward as the victim of a violent crime, because it’s unfair to the perpetrator – afterall, those two football players in Steubenville had such promising futures. How dare the victim destroy that?

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