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Women DO get the benefit of the doubt to a fault, especially in liberal, feminist heavy cities like Seattle. And sometimes, it can be infuriating to watch mostly rational people throw logic completely out the window and automatically assume that any woman who cries rape or abuse is totally being honest without question.

Don't even get me started on the local divorce laws, which basically bend men over by default and automatically label the woman a victim.

Posted by Gomez | October 25, 2006 8:47 AM

I think perhaps that we are walking the fine, albeit blurred, line in society between protecting those that need it (i.e. abused women)and maintaining the skepticism which is so required in vastly over mediated world.

No matter what stance had been taken on this issue, someone would have been in an uproar. Had you advocated to LIFE that he go ahead and commit murder, I have no doubt the response would have been just as volcanic. In the case of providing advice to an individual contemplating the murder of another, caution is the correct course of action.

Posted by Kevin | October 25, 2006 8:47 AM

You would say that, Kevin, being a man.

Posted by Dan Savage | October 25, 2006 8:50 AM

Thats possible that my gender reflects my sociological view, however I think it is no less valid to state that in the case of determining whether anyone should live or die, caution should be excercised. It is one of the basic tenets of our legal system, innocent until proven guilty.

Were we to entirely disregard this precept, our system would be left open to abuse.


Posted by Kevin | October 25, 2006 8:54 AM

Kevin, exactly how much more cautious can you be when someone writes in saying one's lover claims her spouse beats her and she wants help to kill him? I can't fault Dan for suggesting the writer have some doubt, especially given the inherent dishonesty of, you know, asking someone to help you KILL SOMEBODY.

Posted by Gomez | October 25, 2006 8:55 AM

Even as a woman, I will admit that women exagerate abuse ALL the time. And entrapment? Don't even get me started on women who purposefully become pregnant...Feminism has even gone to far for my taste and I would consider myself a liberal woman. Now, if a woman does really want to just raise a kick ass family and stay at home with the kids there must be something wrong with her for not wanting to be a CEO for some huge corporation?!

F*ck that!

Posted by candyqueen | October 25, 2006 9:17 AM

"A woman who says she’s been raped must be believed ..." Unless, of course, she's Juanita Broaddrick, and the rapist is Blue-Dress Bill. That's the only instance in which a rape victim is not to be believed, and all ancillary blame must be shifted to Christofascist Ken Starr.

Posted by Mistress Buju | October 25, 2006 9:23 AM

Amen Dan. If the dude wanted to confirm what she said was true, he could do so as you suggested. It makes no sense to take her claims as gospel. Sadly people do lie about that sort of thing.

Posted by Suz | October 25, 2006 9:23 AM

In the public debate about accused terrorists, accused pedophiles, and accused rapists, there is the widespread prejudice that if you have been accused of so vile a crime then you don't diserve the benefit of the doubt.

There are a frightening number of people who would be very happy to have dungeons full of the accused, denied the chance to respond to the accusation in an orderly court procedure.

And also a frightening number who would make false accusations in order to make a bothersome individual disappear.

Posted by Rain Monkey | October 25, 2006 9:23 AM

Re comments 1 and 6: It's not the feminism, it's the buttheadedness. Some people just get so attached to their ideology, whatever it is, that they willingly stick their own heads far, far up their butts. We've seen great big examples of this phenomenon from all ends (ha!) of the political and social spectrum recently, from Iraq to Seattle's not-my-school parents groups.

Facts matter, and people make good choices only when they seek out and pay attention to facts.

End of sermon.

Posted by Linda | October 25, 2006 9:27 AM

You do recognize, of course, that our legal system failed to recognize women as people for a very long time, right? That rape was not considered a crime at all, especially if the victim/perpetrator were married, and still carries the underlying stigma that women who are raped brought it upon themselves? That women still do not experience equal protection under the law or in the judicial system (much less in the workplace, but don't get me started on that one)?

The majority of police, including patrol officers and detectives are men. Most doctors are men. Most lawyers are men. Most judges are men. There is a huge issue with collecting evidence and thoroughly investigating, much less prosecuting rape. And some women do lie. So, what should be done about that? Should our legal system and society ignore all women who are raped because some women lie about it? Or might it be a reasonable expectation that police investigate the crime; if evidence is found, that D.A.'s prosecute; and if found guilty, perhaps the perpetrator should serve a bit more time that someone convicted of grand theft auto?

Frankly, anyone who was cognizent of the Kobe Bryant incident must have recognized that rape accusations are not exactly straight-forward crimes. Yes, the police must immediately arrest the person accused (because the person may have evidence on their physical person). If, however, no further evidence is found to substantiate the accusation, the accused isn't prosecuted. Again, what is the alternative?

Dan gave the best advice in a situation that was wrong on many different levels. Soliciting a person for murder is a crime, even if the person you want dead is a rapist/abuser, hell, even if they're a murderer. A lot of people lie about a lot of things, so it's not really a big deal to do a little fact checking. It is possible to be both supportive and skeptical. Plus, Dan could've faced criminal charges if he had advised the person to do it and they did.

Posted by dewsterling | October 25, 2006 10:10 AM

I think that 90% of the time, women are telling the truth about their abuse. I also suspect that a large percentage of abuse goes unreported and that women just live with it because they don't want to be defined as a victim for the rest of their lives and treated weirdly.

Over the years, a few friends and acquaintances of mine have admitted being raped (one at knifepoint at age 13) and they never mentioned it again and never reported it in any way. This scenario is probably more common than women lying to get attention.

Unfortunately, the other ten percent that make shit up for personal gain (?) ruin it for those who tell the truth.

And Dan, your advice was sound. No one should be removing anyone. If the guy thought this woman was seriously being abused, he should urge the woman to press charges, help her find a shelter, or get the hell out of Dodge or some other productive thing. This isn't the Sopranos.

Posted by backlash | October 25, 2006 10:11 AM

I agree with Dan's initial advice. Asking someone to help kill someone is a big fucking deal and should not be taken lightly.

If LIFE's girlfriend had said to him 'I've been raped by this guy and I'm scared of him,' I would say he should believe her. But when it crosses to the point of asking someone to commit murder... that's a whole different ballgame. When part of this woman's story is so easily verified, why shouldn't LIFE make a couple phone calls to see if the ex had been tried for rape?

As a woman, I would hate to live in a society where all a woman had to do was point at a man and say 'he raped me' and have the man be instantly branded as guilty with no evidence or verification. I would certainly want the police to investigate, but to just declare the guy guilty and throw away the key? No.

Posted by Patricia | October 25, 2006 10:12 AM

It's like Pam Smart all over again.

Posted by K | October 25, 2006 10:24 AM

I agree that for decades—centuries—women weren't believed when they brought charges of rape, incest, and abuse. In large parts of the Ismlamic world, a woman who brings charges of rape can be stoned for—no shit—adultery. Gotta love that ol' time religion.

But the correction for refusing to believe any woman's claim of rape, incest, or abuse is not believing, 100%, in every woman's claim of rape, incest, or abuse. Again, benefit of the doubt when there's risk, danger, or an imminent harm—remove the woman from harm's way, get her in a shelter, get her a lawyer, and a restraining order. And, knowing how many woman with restraining orders have been murdered, perhaps a gun.

But the moment comes when all claims of abuse have to be, you know, vetted. Assessed. Weighed. Moving back to LIFE's example, his girlfriend claimed her husband had been tried for rape. Pretty easy to go get trial transcipts. If that doesn't check out, well, then the rest of her story requires scrutiny and she has some explaining to do.

Posted by Dan Savage | October 25, 2006 10:26 AM

Of course, the other half of the equation is situations where white women said black men had raped them, and the guy ended up lynched.

Posted by devil's advocate | October 25, 2006 10:32 AM

Exactly! Understanding that a crime might have occured in conjunction with a heathy dose of skepticism allows a person to look at the issue rationally. In such serious incidents as rape, police, doctors, social services, should intervene immediately. However, a thorough investigation should be mounted as well. And, yes, rape is notoriously hard to substantiate. It'd be nice if people were sensitive to that fact. Because it is such a traumatic issue, the majority of rape victims, women, children, and men, prefer pretending that it never happened - it is what is referred to as the "dark figure of crime" in criminology.

In interpersonal relationships, it sounds a bit seedy to do a backgound check on a person because, as a society, we have an idealized and romantic idea that the people we love are true. On the other hand, would you buy a house without an inspection?

Posted by dewsterling | October 25, 2006 10:44 AM

The alleged cases of white women raped by black men and the black men lynched without trial isn't really an issue of sex, is it? It's one of race, which is not part of this debate.

Posted by Gloria | October 25, 2006 10:59 AM

The deal is that abused women were ignored for so long so some people want to make up for lost time by taking an absolutist stance. (Not that many do, frankly, but anyway). It just makes sense to treat a woman like a person, not some delicate flower, but as a regular person.

Women just want to be taken seriously like anyone else in all aspects of life.

Posted by the deal | October 25, 2006 11:04 AM

It's much easier to take people seriously when they don't lie to you and make up stories.

Posted by Gomez | October 25, 2006 11:14 AM

"The alleged cases of white women raped by black men and the black men lynched without trial isn't really an issue of sex, is it? It's one of race, which is not part of this debate."

Thank you for attempting to set the terms of the debate for us, but I won't limit myself to fit into your ideology.

My point was that rape (or less) was alleged, but not actually committed, and men died for it.

Posted by Devil's Advocate | October 25, 2006 11:16 AM

It is possible to support a woman (or man) who tells you they've been raped or abused or what have you without getting into the verity of the situation. Anyone you love and trust who needs the support that's required if they were ever raped should get your unconditional love and support.

That's totally unrelated to whether what they state happened is true, or whether you should kill someone on their behalf.

The emotional side of it needs to be supported, especially if it turns out that they weren't raped - or that they can't provide any proof to the criminal justice system or it happened back in the mists of tiem. Part of that support can be helping them (gradually or immediately) getting the kind of counseling that lets them sort out what was real and what was not.

Rape is all too real, so the likelihood is that when someone who you love and trust tells you about rape, that they are telling the truth.

I think we're fixating here on the murder part. If anyone asks you to commit murder, and you consider it seriously, then we're outside of the framework in which you can talk about emotion, support, and reality.

It's a very man thing to want to have the proof of something and then take action! At once! But Dan wasn't advising that. He was advising, rather, that facts might be useful in this particular case independent of whether LIFE was providing nurturing support to a woman advocating murder.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman | October 25, 2006 11:23 AM

I'm against blindly supporting folks you love. The best thing you can do, at times, for folks you love is prevent them from making fools of themselves by making false claims. If my sister came to me and insisted that she had been raped by Russ Feingold on the QE2 and was about to go public, I would not offer her my support because I love her. I would tell her she nuts–-because I love her, and because I don't want her to make a fool of herself.

Posted by Dan Savage | October 25, 2006 11:39 AM

Sometimes telling someone you love the hard truth IS being supportive.

Posted by dewsterling | October 25, 2006 11:44 AM

Er, yes, by all means ... please stay out of my ideology.

My point -- not that I'm imposing it upon you -- is that while I understood your sentiment, in your example, men died because they were black, not because they were men. Rape was involved, but it could have been any crime, any victim (so long as they were white), and any accused (so long as they were black).

The only point I find useful is a longstanding stereotype of black men being sexually beastly, and white women idealized as delicate and submissive; that would have compounded the situation, no doubt.

But yes, perhaps someone else found your example absolutely relevant.

Posted by Gloria | October 25, 2006 12:12 PM

It's much easier to take people seriously when they don't lie to you and make up stories.

Nice. So Gomez says that all, or at least most, women lie and, therefore, can't be taken seriously.

I completely understand people who want to withold judgment when a woman makes an accusation of rape. However, for a lot of men that seems to actually mean demonizing the alleged victim and turning the alleged rapist into a hero. Exhibit A: Fans of opposing teams standing up and cheering Kobe Bryant after he had been accused of rape.

Posted by keshmeshi | October 25, 2006 12:26 PM

One of the things that makes rape hard to differentiate from other crimes is the dispute over consensuality. It's pretty straightforward if someone is found with your property, which you reported as stolen, to verify that they have acquired it without your consent and are thieves. But in a rape where the victim is forced, but the physical damage is not obvious, it can be VERY difficult to establish nonconsensuality. For centuries, the victim has been disbelieved and blamed, accused of luring, teasing, and lying. In many societies, that is still the default position.

I do not believe, as so many here seem to, that we are erring all that far in the opposite direction now as regards jurisprudence. The cases where alleged rapists are convicted and the conviction later shown to have been based on a lie are familiar to everyone, because they are the exception, not the rule.

Have you ever been involved with a rape case that actually went to trial? Very few do, in large part because most rape victims either cannot present sufficient evidence for a conviction in court - and that should not make us automatically assume that they are lying; a lot of rapists carry condoms, too - or cannot prove nonconsensuality. It is still one of the hardest crimes to convict.

Now, that being said, anyone in an abusive situation who is trying to obtain an illegal solution to their problem is obviously suspect on the basis of that. There ARE resources available other than having your abuser killed or beaten. You can leave. You can have the abuser picked up on a DV charge and you can actually PRESS CHARGES (this is one of the hardest things to get an alleged victim to do in DV cases). But trying to get someone else to commit a crime on your behalf - no, that's no solution and just leads people to the sort of black and white thinking you see in this comments thread.

Posted by Geni | October 25, 2006 12:28 PM

Assuming you are male Gomez, I'm quite sure you would always be taken seriously (and immediately believed) if you told someone you were raped, no question. How lucky for you.

Posted by Yuck | October 25, 2006 12:50 PM

Or perhaps I should put it this way:

Gomez, I hope you are saying that "people shouldn't lie" (always good advice) rather than "women are mostly liars" (boo!).

I'll assume you are expressing the former rather than the latter, yes?

Posted by Yuck II | October 25, 2006 12:53 PM

People are willfully mis-reading Gomez's comment.

Posted by Dan Savage | October 25, 2006 1:09 PM

I can't really add to the generalities being debated above, but I would like to say that I think Dan's original advice was solid. If you're under the impression a loved one - ESPECIALLY if you're technically the "other" - needs help commiting a murder, then chances are you're letting yourself be manipulated.

Posted by Dougsf | October 25, 2006 1:19 PM

Yes, well, Dan, when a person starts out with:

"Women DO get the benefit of the doubt to a fault, especially in liberal, feminist heavy cities like Seattle. And sometimes, it can be infuriating to watch mostly rational people throw logic completely out the window and automatically assume that any woman who cries rape or abuse is totally being honest without question.

Don't even get me started on the local divorce laws, which basically bend men over by default and automatically label the woman a victim."

Then follows it up with:
"It's much easier to take people seriously when they don't lie to you and make up stories."

There appear to be some generalizations that focus on a belief that women are the recipients of legal and social privilege when they accuse a person of rape and in divorce. Since the context of the discussion is women, it's reasonable to assume that the generalization about making up stories and lying also refers to women and that women should not be taken seriously. If it was meant ironically, it missed the mark.

Posted by dewsterling | October 25, 2006 1:32 PM

For all of you speculating on how DV trials work, I'd invite you to come down to the KC courthouse and observe the process for yourself. The bullshit is getting a little deep on this thread -- sounds like an awful lot of people watching too much Law & Order.

And Dan, FWIW, it is even harder to prosecute same-sex DV of either gender. You think maybe there might be a societal bias there as well?

Posted by MarriedToTheLaw | October 25, 2006 2:19 PM

I'll admit to watching too much Law & Order.

Posted by me | October 25, 2006 2:24 PM

Are you accusing me of lying, dew? Do I really need to present a bibliography of sources whenever I make a point? I certainly don't see you coming forward with a works cited page to defend any of YOUR points.

Posted by Gomez | October 25, 2006 2:47 PM

And for what it's worth, I figured Kobe was guilty when he was accused.

Posted by Gomez | October 25, 2006 2:50 PM

No bias at work there.

Posted by Stalker of Celery | October 25, 2006 4:28 PM

Where exactly did I accuse you of lying, Gomez? Please point that out to me. I said, and will say again, that you made gross generalizations in your assertion that women are given social and legal privileges when they accuse a person of rape and in divorce. You're the only person who knows if you're lying. As to the other part - who in existence can honestly say that they've never made up a story or lied? Does that mean no one should ever be believed?

If you would like some citations about gender inequity and the law, I am happy to oblige. Just to get started, we have the Declaration of Independence which holds forth that all MEN are created equal. It was almost a hundred and fifty years before women were even granted the right to vote. Prior to that time, women were basically denied citizenship, much less equal protection under the law. Women were considered the property of their husbands or fathers. It wasn't until 1981 that Kirchberg vs. Feenstra struck down the existing laws that made husbands the "head and master" with unilateral control of all property owned jointly in a marriage. In 1994 the Violence Against Women Act was passed funding training for police and court officials to learn how to deal with gender-related violent crimes and allowed women to sue their attackers. Better yet, in 2000 the U.S. Supreme court invalidated the parts of the Violence Against Women Act that allowed victims to sue their attackers in court.

If you'd like more information, there is a lot available. Theresa de Lauretis, Angela Davis, Donna Haraway are all on faculty at my university and have done some amazing research. In fact, UW has a Women's Studies program that you could probably check out.

Posted by DEWsterling | October 25, 2006 4:31 PM

I was raped and accused of lying and I see nothing wrong with what Dan suggests.

Sadly, I know women who have lied about being raped for one reason or another. I always initially believe a woman when she says she was raped but I do think it's a good idea to make sure these things are true when planning on murdering someone.

Posted by Sha | October 25, 2006 7:21 PM

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