Woman with pepper spray: The fact that sexual violence can so rarely be proven is a problem
Yaraslau Mikheyeu / iStockphoto / Getty Images
Most men have no idea what women are doing to protect themselves from abusive behavior by men.
These can be practical things like: not walking certain paths alone in the dark, learning self-defense, having pepper spray in your jacket pocket or making fake phone calls, wearing thick headphones on the train even though no music comes out, or putting on a bra even though it is would not be necessary.
Or it can be more psychological processes: ignoring stupid sayings, glossing over situations or hiding indications of dangers in order not to be permanently distracted.
A lot of women do these things, it's their everyday life, but of course assaults happen anyway.
Sometimes you take a taxi to get home safely and then it's the taxi driver who gets intrusive.
There is no safe protection against sexual violence.
Born in 1986, was born in Poland and grew up in Berlin.
She studied philosophy and social sciences and has been working as a freelance writer since 2009.
Her feminist bestseller "Bottom Rum Free" was published in 2016 by Rowohlt Verlag.
This was followed in 2018 by »The Last Days of Patriarchy«, a collection of columns from SPIEGEL and »taz«.
If something then happens and the woman tells other people about it, the reactions will of course depend on the severity of the crime, because there is verbal harassment, there is moderate physical assault, brutal rape and everything in between.
Basically, however, the woman can only be sure of the sympathy of her surroundings and the public when it comes to a case in which she ran home sober during the day in long clothes, was ambushed by a stranger and immediately after the fall went to the police, was able to show wounds with DNA traces of a perpetrator, ideally there was also the recording of a surveillance camera.
In all other cases there will be suspicion: why did she let it get this far?
What was the relationship between the two of them before?
What signals did she send to the perpetrator?
Does she like that?
Why does she only talk about it years later?
The way the public deals with sexual violence is full of contradictions.
On the one hand, women should "not feel like this" with unpleasant men and should stand above certain "outdated" behavior, but when they then ignore the first signs of abuse and experience severe violence, they have been "naive".
Only the third option remains, to explicitly and severely put the man in his place at the first sign of assault.
But unfortunately we also know that rejected men can endanger the life of women.
A woman who speaks publicly about assaults and names the perpetrator must expect that she will not be believed and that she will be accused of lying.
"Presumption of innocence" is a magic word that is supposed to turn all stories that take place outside the courtroom to dust.
But there is one thing with the presumption of innocence.
Because the presumption of innocence also applies to women who accuse men of assault.
One must first assume that they are not lying: Anyone who explains that a woman who speaks of abuse lies and wants to destroy the reputation of this person is at least accusing the woman of defamation - and that would then also be a criminal offense this woman would commit.
In the past few days there have been discussions about two prominent cases that are very different, but are similar in certain respects: Both cases are about allegations of sexual assault, in both cases nothing has been proven, in both cases advocates speak of »lynching justice "Or" lynch mood "against the respective men.
In the first case, a journalist and podcaster spoke about her relationship with a man who became physically abusive immediately after talking about her discomfort in the relationship.
He pushed her onto the bed, pulled her pants down and started "playing around" with her until he stopped and said, "Whoa, I just wanted to rape you now, but I didn't do it", whereupon he would have had a panic attack - "And then I felt sorry for him and comforted him."
After various people pointed out who it was on social networks, they demanded consequences.
One of his clients tweeted: “There are good reasons why there are no legal proceedings against […].
To pillory a person on the basis of rumors in the social networks is a modern form of lynching. "Of course, one condemns" any form of sexual violence ".
No matter how this statement came about: A press lawyer later announced that there were proceedings and that despite a complaint, they were finally terminated in favor of the man for lack of sufficient suspicion.
The presumption of innocence is a legal principle, not a moral one
The Dieter Wedel case is better known and does not really need to be explained here.
The director's defense team gave a SPIEGEL interview a few days ago: lawyer Dörthe Korn, ex-federal judge Thomas Fischer and lawyer and CSU politician Peter Gauweiler explained their strategy for the upcoming proceedings for possible rape.
There was talk of a “lynch mood” against the accused, as well as the fact that it would also be a matter of judging how credible the witnesses are when it comes to actors: “So people who like to get into others quickly Slip into roles that also have the ability to come across as convincing in this role. "
One also has to consider, explained lawyer Korn, that women perceive certain things differently than men: "The sexual area in particular is predestined for the fact that a woman may perceive certain things as bad, while a man says: Yes, that's the way it is." Interesting point of view, since the case at issue was described as follows in “Die Zeit”: Actress Jany Tempel says that Wedel received her in a bathrobe in a hotel room, gave her an erotic script scene to read, and she followed on the sofa while she screamed.
She rushed to the door, Wedel stopped her, pressed her against a wall and threw her on the bed.
The descriptions are full of violence, which even with a bad image of men cannot be understood as normal male behavior.
So do people who believe the women in question what happened to them on the basis of such stories commit a “prejudice,” as the Wedel interview repeatedly said?
The presumption of innocence is a legal principle, not a moral one.
According to the European Convention on Human Rights, anyone suspected of a crime must be treated as innocent until his guilt has been finally established.
And it is not he who has to prove his innocence, but rather the law enforcement agency to prove his guilt.
But, that is the dilemma, at the same time you make it extremely easy for yourself if you assume that sexual violence has only taken place where a court has confirmed it.
Especially since you know that in very many cases it is not displayed at all.
That doesn't mean that you have to believe everything in everyone.
It does mean, however, that there is more violence than court judgments can confirm and that, accordingly, one can of course have opinions on cases.
Such an opinion can be, for example: I tend to believe women.
Or: I now have a bad feeling about this person's performances or films.
Or: I hope that this case will one day be cleared up.
Does anyone still remember "men's worlds"?
Almost a year ago, many were very touched and shaken up by this exhibition on sexual violence.
The problem is, as long as names are not mentioned, there is a broad public willing to say how bad it is that women are still experiencing so much violence and that something must finally happen.
However, as soon as the names of alleged perpetrators are named, the discussion shifts to the question of whether the career of an innocent man should be destroyed here.
The fact that sexual violence can rarely be proven is a problem.
But the main danger here is not that innocent men will end up in jail with loads of them.
The main danger is that public distrust of the alleged victims and those who believe the accounts leads to people who have experienced violence not dare to speak about it because they suspect the power that would strike them.