“Believe Her” Doesn’t Mean “Lock Him Up”

reconsidering the language of the culture wars

artist: darksouls1

“Believe Her” as a Call to Action

For me, the phrase “Believe Her” implies a call to action, rather than a hasty jump to a conclusions. It is a timely and necessary reminder to not dismiss, not turn away from those who come forward with personal accounts of past events that make us uncomfortable. Especially in the case of sexual assault allegations, “Believe Her” is a conscious counterweight to attempt to level the playing field after decades (and centuries) of wholesale shaming and silencing of sexual assault victims.

“Believe Her” as a Free Pass to Condemn

Others see the “Believe Her” mantra as something else entirely. For them, it is an ultimatum to the outside observer: I we believe the accuser, we must condemn the accused. We must deny him the status and recognition that society would afford him in absence of the alleged crime. We must dole out punishment severe enough to deter future transgressions. We must “Lock Him Up”.

“Believe Her” as Indirect Victim Blaming

There is yet another angle of critique of “Believe Her”. As chloe schwanz argues, also here on Medium, merely by pleading with third party observers to believe the accuser, we are subconsciously reinforcing age-old biases against victims of sexual assault:

Who’s Right?

In brief — everyone and no one. Simple, familiar phrases tend to take on all sorts of color and nuance as they pass through the prisms of our cognitive filters. They might work well to quickly establish what side of the debate we stand on — but they rarely win over those on the other side.

Editor of No Crime in Rhymin' and Language Lab | the Woke Bloke ..."come for the sarcasm, stay for my soft side"