Friday, October 27, 2017

The Falsely Accused Trope

I've been watching season three of All Saints lately. Today I'm watching the episode, A Fine Balance.

In this episode, Amy, a young patient (Kate Sherman) accuses Dr. Stevens (Eric Thomson) of molesting her. As far as the viewer is shown, this is a false accusation.

I'm pretty sure this isn't the first time All Saints has had a storyline about false accusations. I vaguely remember an episode featuring Bridie Carter. I think I actually wrote a blog post about it. I'll go search for it later.

I also remember a storyline I saw a few years ago on Home and Away.  I think I wrote about that too.

And I know I've seen such storylines on TV shows from the US...and other places.

I'm wondering why these storylines seem to be so prevalent. More importantly, do real life occurrences of false accusations match their prevalence in fiction?

I'm also wondering if they make it more difficult for real women victims to be believed. Have our novels, TV shows, movies, etc. led us to automatically question if a woman is telling the truth when she talks about being attacked?

The thing about real life prevalence is, I think it would be hard to get an accurate measurement. In many cases, the only people who know for sure that an attack happened or didn't happen is the victim and the accused. If a woman takes back her accusation, it might not be because the attack didn't happen. It could be that she was convinced and/or pressured to retract the accusation. Maybe she was led to feel it was her fault. Maybe she was led to believe it wasn't that big of a deal.  Maybe she was led to feel that the authorities aren't going to believe her. Maybe she was led to believe that speaking out against her crime is going to cost her career and her reputation.

Some people could claim that they have a friend or family member that was falsely accused. I know my brother wouldn't do that. He's a GOOD man. 

But we can't know anything about a person 100%. We can have doubts that someone committed an act of abuse. We can't ever be fully sure. People have sides to themselves that they hide.

And sometimes it's a case of denial. Well, yeah. He's a bit of a creepy pervert sometimes.  But I can't imagine he'd ever actually rape anyone. Then you add the...Plus, she's a bit of a slut. And she's loves being the center of attention. I'm pretty sure she's just making it up.

Anyway....I'm going to look at my old posts. I'm wondering what I felt about the scenes. I have a feeling I wasn't bothered by the trope.  I probably was more frightened by it and angry at the characters doing the false accusing.

Here's the Bridie Carter post.  In it, I say,  I think that's something that really scares me. What if one day I get accused of a horrible crime I didn't commit? What if it happens to someone I love? And worse...what if, because of the accusations, I start to doubt this person? Maybe it's different when you know someone and you can have some amount of faith that they're innocent. But then you can never know for sure. We might think we know someone, and maybe they hide their darkest parts from us.

Some of it is similar to what I'm saying today—close to three years later.

But I think back then I was as worried about being false accused of something as I was about not being believed.  Were my fears valid?  Is there a good chance of being false accused of a crime. Or it it mostly a myth perpetrated by fiction and real perpetrators who passionately deny their wrongdoings?

The thing I'm noticing about some famous accused shitheads lately is they don't just deny their crime. They try to turn themselves into the victim.

I just had to pause my writing to take care of some feline child/human child stuff. And I had to pee. During all that, I started wondering if I was being unfair.  If I'm going to believe people who are victims, shouldn't I also give the benefit of the doubt to people who are victims of being falsely accused?

Maybe.  I think I did in the past. And I probably do a tiny bit still these days.

The thing that makes me less likely to do it lately is I'm seeing a sort of pattern with men who are accused.  First it's, I definitely did not do it. Then when there's enough evidence to the contrary, okay I did it. Oops sorry.

It reminds me of this narcissist prayer I saw online. That didn't happen. And if it did, it wasn't that bad. And if it was, that's not a big deal. And if it is, that's not my fault. And if it was, I didn't mean it. And if I did, you deserved it.  

As I said earlier, though, it's not just about denying the abuse and/or crime happened. It's about the asshole turning himself into the victim. They cry out about their reputation being ruined. They cry out about how this will hurt their family. They threaten to sue their accusers. If evidence mounts against them, they may slow down their denials but still paint themselves as the victim. Now they're no longer victims of false accusations. They're victims of growing up in the wrong time period or they're victims of some kind of deficiency. But if we give them a chance. If we give them our support and love, they will rise from the ashes.  They continue to paint themselves as the protagonist in the story rather than the antagonist.

I just went to search for the other post about false accusations. Back then I wrote, Hated Billie (Tessa de Josselin) and thought there should be a special hell for people who make false sexual assault allegations. Not only do they hurt the man they've accused, but they hurt the women and men who truly are attacked.

While searching for the post, I started to remember and understand why I had such strong feelings about false accusations.

It sort of happened to me.  It wasn't a sexual abuse thing, though. Thankfully.

It happened when I wrote a response to a young adult's harsh blog post about obesity.  My response was pointed, but civil.  The response to my response was extremely harsh.  My response was also deleted, so people couldn't see what I had actually written.  Then the mother of the young adult (labeled as mother bear), and her friend could paint me out to be someone who deserves to be verbally shit upon.

I've also encountered people online who've invented cancer storylines for themselves.

So yeah. There ARE awful, manipulative people who lie and/or exaggerate to bring attention to themselves or to perpetuate some kind of persecution fantasy.

Are these problems more prevalent than the problem of hurt people not being believed?  Is one problem worse than another?

I'm not sure. It was horrible having people hate me and gang up on me for simply writing a civil, disagreeing comment. I've also had the horrible feeling of having a problem and not being believed.

I'm reading more of my blog post.  One of the other things I wrote is, Thought it would be cruel for a family member not to believe a family member about being attacked, but if there's a strong history of lying and manipulation, there needs to be some reasonable doubt.

And I wrote,  Wanted to say that I also feel bad for people who are attacked and not believed. Nate is well-loved and respected in town. What if he HAD attacked Billie? Would anyone have believed it? Even if she wasn't a manipulative cow, there's a fair chance they wouldn't. I think there are highly-respected people who do bad things, and their victims are not believed.

What I'm starting to understand is that these confusing, conflicting thoughts I'm having today are nothing new for me. It turns out I had the same thoughts on April 18, 2016.

I didn't have any answers then, really. I don't have them now.

Today when I saw Dr. Stevens being accused, I felt annoyed.  Obviously, this comes from all the stuff I've read in the news...and Twitter...and remembering my own experiences of being dismissed and not believed.  I was bothered by the trope and felt it might add to the chances of an abused person not getting the comfort and justice they need and deserve.

I don't necessarily disagree with what I was feeling when I first started writing this post. The trope might very well be overused and an exaggeration of what happens in real life.  But I'm feeling a little more sympathy for the other side of the story.  No, I don't have any sympathy for the many shitheads who do shitty things and then have the nerve to lie about it and paint themselves as the victim.  I do have sympathy for people who are innocent and are hated for something they didn't really do.

In some ways, All Saints does a fair job of painting how fucked up the situation is. Though I've already seen two storylines about men being falsely accused of sex crimes, I've also seen two storylines where a woman is really attacked.  One of them happened a few episodes ago.  Terri (Georgie Parker) was attacked by her stalker. In the episode I watched today, she defends Dr. Stevens against the accusations. So even a victim of a sex crime might not believe other victims of a sex crime.

With a TV show it's easy.  The viewers are usually given the answers. This character is a bad person and this character is a good person who has been falsely accused.

In real life, it's much harder to know what is truth and what is not. When you have twenty women coming forward with similar accusations against the same man, it's easier to see who is lying and who is being honest. When there is only one woman, it's much harder.  Then we have to decide between making a woman feel a million times worse about what happened to her or helping to destroy the life of an innocent person.