thoughts on rape charges against julian assange

It need not be said - but I will say it anyway - that I stand in solidarity with victims of rape and sexual assault, everywhere, always.

But somehow, it must also be said that not all accusations of rape are valid and true.

Historically, women who reported rape were easily dismissed, or rape went largely unreported, because the victim and assailant knew each other, or had had consensual sex on other occasions, or the victim was sexually active, or any number of dangerous myths used to control women's behaviour. This has changed - although not entirely - in North America, because of the influence of feminist activism, but is still the case in many parts of the world.

Also historically, rape has been used as a weapon against powerless men. In the US South, African-American men were routinely accused of rape before they were lynched and murdered. These accused men had not adequately displayed their submissive status, whether intentionally, as an act of resistance, or in the imagination of their cowardly white oppressors. Black men would be accused of rape, hauled off into the woods, tortured, often castrated, then murdered. Their transgression may have been as simple as looking a white person in the eye.

When a man who has exposed the crimes of the rich and powerful on an unprecedented global scale is accused of an unrelated crime, hunted internationally and held without bail, we must give serious pause to the validity of the accusation.

Some people react to any accusation of sexual abuse and assault as if women routinely lie about rape to get attention or to get revenge. That's beyond preposterous. It's disgusting and it's dangerous and it's wrong. We must speak out about it at every opportunity.

But other people react to those same incidents as if every single accusation must necessarily be valid. As if, in the history of the world, no one has ever accused a man of rape in order to silence him, or no woman has ever lied about being raped. That's not possible.

It's also inadvertently unfair to women. Women are people. Like all people, women can lie, cheat, steal, murder, support fascism, and any other despicable act you can name. Women are capable of the entire spectrum of human action and emotion, because women are people. One female stereotype is the lying bitch who agrees to sex then blackmails the man with rape charges. The flipside stereotype is the angelic creature on a pedestal who can do no wrong. Neither cartoon helps us achieve true equality.

Women are raped. Men are raped, too. Rape is real, and we must speak out about it.

But defending Julian Assange and WikiLeaks is not defending rape. This morning Naomi Klein posted this on Facebook: "Rape is being used in the Assange prosecution in the same way that women's freedom was used to invade Afghanistan."

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