16 December 2010

read this: Tiger Beatdown

Tiger Beatdown says it all pretty effectively here, along with a call for action. Michael Moore has given $20,000 to the bail fundraising efforts to get Julian Assange out of British jail, pending extradition to Sweden on two - that's TWO - separate rape charges.  As Tiger Beatdown says, Assange has demonstrated that he is a flight risk, which makes bail a bit more than a formality.

Most rapes go unreported, unprosecuted, unpunished. The number of unreported rapes far, far, FAR outweighs the number of false allegations. I don't know what happened with those two women in Sweden who are bringing charges against Assange, but I do know that I take rape allegations very, very, very seriously. We all should, especially (again, as Tiger Beatdown states) those of us who claim to be progressives, who say we are feminists. The Man takes few more grotesque forms than the unaccused, privileged white male rapist who gets away with it.

Meanwhile, over on NPR, they're reporting about communities in California who, due to budget crises, have had to close their shelters for women & children fleeing domestic abuse. As NPR reports, the shelter in question (not far from Sacramento, in the more rural regions of the state) had an annual operating budget of $60,000.  NPR also reports that 3 out of 4 domestic-abuse murders occur when the victim flees.
It's dangerous to leave an abusive household.
It's dangerous to open your house, as a private citizen, to victimized women and children, and to the threat posed by their abuser.

But people are doing it, because it's the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, Michael Moore is donating one-third of the annual budget of this shelter to help an accused rapist out on bail?
Bail set at, I believe, a million dollars.
How many crisis centers is that? how many shelters? how many women, children given a safe place to get their lives back? how many rape kits, how many counselors?

I support the work of Wikileaks, absolutely. I don't think the rape charges should be used against Assange politically, as repercussions or retaliation for his Wikileaks work. I also don't think that his Wikileaks work should get him off the hook - a person can do good work and also be a rapist, or a drunk, or an adulterer or just a plain old asshole. A lot of your better American writers had some of these problems, but I'm still going to read Faulkner and Fitzgerald, and I keep Hemingway on my bookshelves as well. But I'll be damned if I'll say their misogyny or drunkenness or assholery is okay or is some kind of false accusation, because they wrote great books.

But look: Assange was accused in August of these two instances of sexual assault. He jumped ship and took off for places to avoid extradition. This was after Wikileaks began its work, of course, but before this latest round of documents was released, the batch of materials that have REALLY pissed off the governments of certain powerful countries.

Rape is rape is rape is rape, and I don't care if the accused is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. One hopes - one relies on - the justice system will get at something approaching the truth at trial. But until then, both the presumed innocence of the defendant, AND the presumed truthfulness of the victim, must be respected. It is not easy, especially, to hold two opposing ideas in one's head, but - as James Baldwin points out, citing the aforementioned Fitzgerald - it becomes necessary to learn to do this.
And that is what we need to do with Assange. We need to say: good work, possibly bad man. We need to say: innocent until proven guilty AND I support the victims of sexual assault. We need to say: "I believe you" whenever women speak up as having been sexually assaulted, raped. This doesn't mean blindly forming vigilante mobs to lynch the accused; it means saying "I believe you. It is safe and good for you to tell your story and the legal system will make sure that justice is done."

It does NOT mean saying "don't believe them." It does not mean donating vast amounts of money to secure bail for the accused, as if what you are doing is a virtuous act of political protest.