What’s in a name?
Words are powerful. They can educate and empower, express and encourage. Words can forge relationships and build bridges. But despite their awesome ability to strengthen, they can also dismantle and destroy when they’re used as weapons. Stick and stones can break your bones, but words will never hurt me? Tell that to anyone who’s ever been verbally bullied, abused, or harassed. There is gravity in words.
Changing the word “victim” to “accuser” until convictions are obtained in cases of rape, domestic violence, and stalking – as Rep. Bobby Franklin’s proposed House Bill 14 in Georgia seeks to do – tells survivors that not even the government believes their story. Basically, the rapists, stalkers, and abusers are innocent until proven guilty, but the survivors are on trial as soon as they report the crime. And for the record, according to the National Center for Policy Analysis, only 39% of rape survivors do report the crime – and of those, only half will result in a conviction. Those whose cases didn’t result in guilty verdict? Forget everything that can go wrong in a trial or the sphere of influence your attacker might have (Cough, cough Ben Roethlisberger) – Rep. Franklin thinks you’re just dirty, rotten liars who imagined the whole thing or are just out to ruin a perfectly good dude’s life. (In case you’re keeping a journal of Franklin’s opinions, he also considers gays to be “unrepentant drug dealers.” An elected official, ladies and gentlemen.)
A dangerous bill like this would be yet another deterrent in survivors reporting their crimes, and that results in more criminals living freely in our communities. (Makes you feel safe, doesn’t it?) It’s not just registered Georgia voters like me who feel outraged by this nonsense. A change.org petition proves that frustration is being felt from Illinois all the way to Israel. And while House Bill 14 may not pass, Rep. Franklin should know that we are not giving our consent for any attack on justice for victims that our officials might attempt to make – and we’re not lying about that.
Lauren Zink is an activist and writer living in Atlanta, Georgia. She is the Co-director of HollabackAtlanta and an all-around badass.
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