The Shield

To believe or not to believe

Gabi Wy, Editor-in-Chief

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When I heard that my favorite singer, Melanie Martinez, was accused of sexual assault by her former best friend, I was devastated.

Most of the people I knew who also liked her immediately discarded their merchandise and deleted her songs off of their phone when Timothy Heller’s accusation came out. The story was long, documented in a series of text pictures on Twitter, and detailed enough that people believed her.

I was torn.

In the days and weeks following Heller’s initial post, people started to question her credibility. She’s just trying to get publicity for her new single, people said. Her timeline doesn’t match up with what we know about Martinez, they said.

To this day, it doesn’t seem like there’s ever going to be definitive proof either way. I’ve chosen to move on from Martinez’s fanbase, and here’s why.

When I first told people about my experience with sexual assault, I was lucky that people believed me. Although it was still incredibly hard for years, I was able to seek help and eventually overcome the weight on my shoulders.

I cannot imagine what it might be like to be disbelieved or discredited. It takes so much strength to open up about such an intimate crime against you. Sure, people could lie about it happening to them for a number of different reasons, but it’s unlikely that most of the people opening up are doing so to deceive.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women, in 2012 false reports make up two to ten percent of reports of sexual assault. That is not enough to immediately doubt a victim when they come forward against a possible attacker.

Why don’t these women go to the police instead of posting about it on Twitter or going to news organizations, people ask? According to the 2012 report, 63 percent of sexual assaults are never reported to the police. It’s hard to bring up these experiences officially. Sometimes there’s no physical proof, or it’s been too long.

Other times, people don’t want legal action to be taken against their attacker. Posting about it may be key to the victim being able to overcome their trauma.

It’s easy to get lost in the recent wave of sexual assault accusations in Hollywood and the media and not know what to think, but overall, it’s a move in the right direction.

People who have been confirmed sexual assaulters and harassers should not get any sympathy, but I won’t get mad at you if you still listen to people or watch actors who are accused of sexual assault but without definitive proof.

But my conscience can’t allow me to do the same. Sexual assault is not a joke. It’s real, and potential victims should be treated accordingly.

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University of Southern Indiana's student publication
To believe or not to believe