TW for rape and rape apologism.
Steven Messham was seriously and sexually abused as a child while under the care of the government. Police showed him a picture of his abuser and mistakenly identified his abuser as Lord McAlpine, the former Conservative Party treasurer. On Newsnight, Messham said a conservative politician from the Thatcher era had abused him multiple times; after speculation online that this was Lord McAlpine, McAlpine issued a denial that he had done anything of the sort, and when Messham saw a picture he retracted his statements immediately, apologized, and said that McAlpine had never abused him. It seems as though everyone has behaved uprightly in this scandal, with the exception of the police and possibly the factchecker at Newsnight.
And then the Faily Heil showed up and decided to tell us all about the “astonishing story BBC DIDN’T tell about its troubled star witness.”
I have read this entire story, so I can tell you what happens in it in case you do not have enough spare faith in humanity to read it:
- Messham said he was abused by a police officer and a police investigation said this wasn’t true, which led to a libel payout. Because it has never, ever, ever happened that police officers have covered up one of their own committing abuse. (Note that according to British law libelous statements are assumed to be false unless proven true, so the fact that there was a successful libel suit doesn’t mean that he wasn’t abused, just that he couldn’t prove that he was abused.)
- At a public inquiry Messham once shouted obscenities at and attempted to punch a barrister. Because it never happens that survivors are triggered and end up responding in irrational and sometimes violent ways, particularly when they are being questioned by someone about their abuse. I mean, violence is bad! I don’t support punching people and yelling obscenities at them. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a rape survivor.
- Messham’s lawyer has said, when talking about Messham, that “people who are vulnerable . . . a good part of them is so disturbed that they’re not going to be wholly consistent and reliable.” Yes? You’ll notice the key part of this quote is that he’s vulnerable and something happened to disturb him.
- Messham is not 100% consistent about the details of his abuse. Because no one ever misremembers things, particularly things that happened in their childhood, and abuse survivors never dissociate from their memories. Besides, if the police were lying to him about who Lord McAlpine is, who knows what else they were lying to him about?
- Messham was, at various points, on trial for benefits fraud and defrauding a charity that he ran, but was cleared or acquitted in both cases. Because… crimes he didn’t commit matter? Because rape survivors never commit fraud? What?
- Some people think that Messham is an unreliable witness. Because as we all know everyone takes rape survivors 100% seriously, particularly when they’re broken and vulnerable as many rape survivors actually are.
In related “people are douchebags” news, this nice David Mellor person decided to call Steven Messham a weirdo. Because being a rape survivor never fucks you up to the extent that you’re kind of weird! All rape survivors are totally normal people who have no emotional problems whatsoever! Also, apparently it’s “ludicrous” that Lord McAlpine could be a rapist. Mr. Mellor should patent his Rapist-O-Vision Goggles, I bet they’d be super-useful in all kinds of circumstances. Want to know if that nice person you’re considering is a rapist? Mellor’s Patented Rapist-O-Vision Goggles will tell you whether it’s ludicrous to say that! (Hint: it’s always ludicrous, until they rape you, at which point you should have known all along and why were you spending time with them?)
Look. There’s a lot of pressure on survivors to be the Perfect Survivor, to stand strong and stalwart and to break down into perfect crystalline tears at the most photogenic of times. Not to have anything in their background that could be criticized– not sex work, or crime, or previous accusations, or anything that could be interpreted as ‘asking for it.’ If you perform Perfect Survivor well enough for us, like a dog on our fucked-up agility show, then we will extend our conditional belief… but only as long as we don’t find out anything that makes us doubt you.
Listen to me closely: FUCK. THAT. SHIT.
I believe that Messham has emotional problems, and that he was raped. I believe that Messham’s testimony may not be 100% accurate, and that he was raped. I believe that Messham tried to punch a barrister, and that he was raped. I believe that Messham may have committed fraud, and that he was raped. I’ll even agree with Mr. Mellor that Messham is a weirdo… and that he was raped.
I believe survivors. I will believe them, and provide them support, because there are too few people in this fucked-up world who will. I believe him because I have emotional problems, and I don’t want that to be a way of discrediting my rape, if I am ever raped. I believe him because I have known too many damn survivors who were not believed and not supported and god fucking dammit I will not add to their fucking number. I believe Steven Messham.
Photo–juliejordonscott/Flickr. Signs at a protest that say “End Violence Now” and “Honk if you Hate Rape.”