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Victims' cries must be heard

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Melissa Glen


By Melissa Glen

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

As I was browsing Netflix for my next binge-worthy show a few weeks ago, I had no idea the show I would later decide on would be less about escaping my own reality and more of a reminder of the dark and cruel reality we are all living in now.

Netflix’s mini series “Unbelievable,” which is based on the 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning article by ProPublica and the Marshall Project, “An Unbelievable Story of Rape,” tells the true story of an 18-year-old girl, Marie, who was sexually assaulted at knifepoint. In the eight episode mini series, the audience gets to experience life through the eyes of the victim who was assaulted not only by her assailant, but also by the police and her loved ones — the very people who were supposed to help her.

After not being able to remember all of the details clearly, which is a normal defense mechanism for a lot of victims of assault, Marie was bullied and cornered into recanting her original statement and living as the “girl who lied about rape.”

She lost her job. She lost her friends and she lost her peace. All the while, her assailant remained free, leaving him free to harm more than 30 other girls — that officials know about — before finally being caught.

Marie’s loved ones and the police felt it was easier to believe she lied than to believe the dark story she told. But it was true and its message is still true today. No one is safe, whether it’s in their house, their car, their churches, their schools — bad people exist and as humans, it is imperative to be there for one another to create change where it counts.

I would like to say that this was a one-time incident — that as bad as this sounds, it’s made a little bit more bearable by the fact it never happened again. But the sad and scary truth is what happened to Marie, happens to victims of sexual assault all the time.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website, in the United States, “one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point.” The website also gave statistics showing that “one in three women and one in six men experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.”

Sexual assault and rape is not an issue that is disappearing anytime soon, so society needs to step up and actually take measures to tackle this issue. Rather than blaming the victim or being quick to question and not trust someone courageous enough to come forward about sexual assault, we, as a country, need to be better.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), “out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, 995 perpetrators will walk free.” On top of that, only 230 of the 1,000 will ever be reported to the police.

Victims of rape and sexual assault are not coming forward the same way that victims of other crimes are. Many fear they will be ignored if they come forward, that nothing will happen to their assailant anyway or worse that they themselves will be blamed for falling victim to such a crime.

This cycle needs to end if anything is ever going to change. Victims should feel heard and acknowledged not attacked or discounted.

According to the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual & Domestic Violence’s website, “most every perpetrator is a serial rapist, meaning that they choose to use coercion, violence, threats of force, etc. to assault people on a repeated basis.”

In Marie’s case, she was the first known victim of her assailant. Had the police and her friends and family been more willing to listen and help, she could have very well been the last. Since it was her assailant’s first act of rape, he was not as smart about making sure no evidence was left behind and could have been more easily linked to the crime.

This is why it is essential that every rape or sexual assault case be taken as seriously as possible. People need to start speaking out if they see something happen or hear of something happening that might potentially be a form of sexual assault, because these details may lead to more people speaking out and eventually might lead to justice.

However, until these changes happen, justice for rape and sexual assault will not be achieved and the number of rape and sexual assault victims will only increase over the years. It’s time to do something about this while we can before the next Marie is hurt.

Melissa Glen is a 2019 graduate of East Carolina University and a copy editor-page designer for The Daily Reflector and Adams Publishing Group-ENC.