— Trigger and Content Warning —
Like with the “Friendship Breakup” series, over the next few weeks, I’ll be answering commonly asked questions surrounding, specifically, Dr Ford and the entire fiasco that we just watched.
As this topic is of a sensitive nature, and many of you may have questions or stories you’d like to share or have answered, please feel free to drop a message in my Facebook inbox or DM me on my Instagram, @thingscarlaloves. You do not have to share your story in the comment section (or anywhere else) if you do not feel comfortable.
As always, there will be a list of helpline services added, if you need help. I strongly urge that you confide in someone you trust in order to help you heal.
Question taken from Dear Prudence:
- Friend Has Revised One-Night Stand Story: A friend recently called me and said she had a one-night stand after drinking too much. She was beating herself up over drinking too much and going home with a guy she met at a bar. I reassured her that everyone makes mistakes and didn’t think much more of the account. However, since then, she has told many people that she was a victim of date-rape—that the guy must have put something into her drink . She spoke to a rape crisis line, and they said even if she was drunk, she couldn’t have given consent so she was a victim of rape. She now wants to press charges—she has the guy’s business card. I have seen her very intoxicated on previous occasions, to the point she doesn’t remember anything the next day. I’m not sure on what my response should be at this point. Pretend she never told me the original story?
Okay, so on the “Dear Prudence” website, I saw this question (in full). Prudence answered this question, and while I don’t necessarily disagree with her, I think a lot needs to be added.
I think it’s essential to understand that plenty of rape victims will not want to use the word “rape” or anything similar when first discussing what’s happened – especially if you’re their first port of call. Like I said in regards to Ford’s memory, we often struggle to label certain things – especially life-altering things – straight off the bat. After all, it’s one of those things you can never un-tell, and if you say it out loud it makes it real. There is every possibility that your friend, when telling her ‘original’ story, was seeking help or guidance. She may have been ashamed and embarrassed, and wanted reassurance. It can be incredibly tricky to know the difference, even for the victim.
However, if it’s just that she’s genuinely regretting the night – and you would probably know her personality than anyone commenting online – then that’s something that you might need to go over with her. The most important thing here to remember is that just because her story has “changed” to you doesn’t mean the event has changed – it might mean that, for whatever reason, she now feels comfortable sharing what really happened. If she hasn’t really gone into detail with you, I’d ask yourself two incredibly uncomfortable – but also incredibly necessary – questions. The first question you need to ask yourself is this: Are you actually approachable in this situation? Don’t automatically just say ‘yes’, really consider it, because saying you had ‘bad sex’ is very different from telling someone you ‘were raped, and didn’t know how to handle it’. (By the way, it’s actually incredibly common for people to deny what’s originally taken place. Remember, it’s a trauma.)
In this situation, I’d sit her down and – unless you have a significant reason to doubt your friend (i.e. a known explanation, but please, please, please, for the love of god, don’t assume that just because you think you know) – ask her a few more questions about it. If she doesn’t feel comfortable, you can’t force it on her. If you’re worried she’s lying – and I mean genuinely worried, because people have helped rapists escape prison time by not taking a woman’s word seriously, and statistically, that’s the situation you’re most likely looking at – I’d talk to her about what she’ll need to do and (gently, for god’s sake – even if you don’t think she’s been raped, and even if she decides she wasn’t doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel violated) remind her of what she’ll need to go through.
The strongest advice I can leave anyone with in this situation is that please don’t assume because the story has “changed” it means it’s somehow a lie. I’ll link plenty of corroborating sources in regards to why people in general deny what’s taken place or pretend the event was less serious than it was because they are afraid. This means that it’s essential you help your friend understand and reach the truth – not what you think the truth is. In this instance, the person writing in gives the impression that they think they know the truth and that the other person is lying. It is possible that the other person isn’t lying, but they might not also understand the entire truth, either.
It’s also important to note that this is why we need to make clear “Yes Means Yes” in regards to consent laws, so that we always have enthusiastic consent. After all, if we started ensuring that we checked in with our partners – particularly new partners, who we haven’t learnt the quirks and routines of – that they’re willing and wanting to continue, no one will ever have to ask themselves “Was it rape?” because they got the chance to properly consent to everything that was happening. And perhaps that’s part of the problem with your friend who “changed” their story – they didn’t say no, so even though they didn’t want something to happen, they felt – for whatever reason – to afraid to speak up.
If your friend wants to press charges, they’re going to face a lot of opposition, and it’s the police’s job to investigate if there’s any evidence, not yours. Please try to remember that by making assumptions, you can sometimes do more damage than good – and there is no reason why you can’t tell the police the story you originally heard. Regardless, before you decide to challenge anyone’s rape story – ‘revised’ or not – please read the numerous sources below that illustrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that ‘changed’ sexual assault and rape story elements is an incredibly common theme. This doesn’t mean someone is lying.
In Emergencies: 000
Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14
MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78
Have a question? Need some advice? Leave a comment or send me a question!
— Sources —
Bachelor of Education: English and History
Diploma in Criminology and Profiling
Diploma in Forensic Science
Background in law and psychology
Teacher 7+ years
Background in special needs, learning support – other specific teaching fields that required hands-on development.
NB: This is a declaration of the background of my personal knowledge, collected over the years via a professional form of education and development. Some of these take the form of actual degrees and others come in the form of necessary professional development. When doing your own, you should always try and verify the person’s credibility. My credibility, nor anyone else’s, is not with their education. Everyone has biases and no one is infallible. I am deliberately including some of my background education to highlight this, because you should be questioning information you are receiving.
The Hunting Ground