Westwood Horizon

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: How to Deal with Rumors

By Kate Lee, Voices Editor

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The rumors are everywhere. Cycling around the halls, whispered across desks, scattered over social media. Spoken from mouth after mouth into ear after ear. “Did you hear? He did that to her.” “She did that to him.”

These word of mouth rumors, especially about sexual assault, can be difficult to handle. On one hand, they are often the most effective ways to hear about incidents related to our school, not hesitating to talk about vulgar and crass actions. On the other hand, they can be skewed at the touch of one person’s exaggeration. The truth can be inflated until “he harassed her” becomes stalking, then groping, then rape.

So how do we deal with these rumors? Do we automatically dismiss them or accept them as complete truth? When one accusation can complicate and ruin many people’s lives, how can we treat the subject with delicacy and yet make progress?

The most important thing to consider is your own prior knowledge about both the accused and the accuser. It can be difficult to use reason and logic to try and reconcile the different rumors, and though it’s supposedly less reliable, sometimes your best bet is to trust your gut. If the victim is someone you trust, you may be much more inclined to believe them. If they are someone close to you, it can be a good idea to ask them carefully about the subject.

More importantly, if the accused is someone you were close to, be more cautious about turning against them automatically. Making sure to not cross any privacy boundaries, listen to various sources and see if the stories line up. Try to get all perspectives. Even though the accused might be completely innocent, it’s smart to generally keep in mind that accusations, even false ones, don’t come without reason. It could be likely the accuser has a history of making others uncomfortable or wary.

While a large part of handling these rumours is interactions with other people, there are certain precautions to be taken personally to make sure we’re not creating a toxic culture around the topic of sexual assault.

The first caution to keep in mind seems obvious, but it’s significant enough to talk about. Don’t take part in any sort of false allegations. Just don’t. Not only does accusing others with no reason greatly damage their lives and relationships, but when certain accusations are proved to be false, it undermines the credibility of the entire movement to elevate victim’s voices.

The more prevalent caution is to not spread rumors yourself. When you’re not sure of the accuracy of a claim, don’t take part in dispersing that knowledge because truth can become easily skewed and dismissable when people accidentally warp or exaggerate it.

In the end, our reactions to hearing these rumors and claims are complex and difficult to determine. But no matter what the case, it’s crucial that we treat these situations carefully and mindfully to ensure that the movement for victims of sexual assault can succeed.

About the Writer
Kate Lee, Voices Editor
I'm a fierce believer in the written word -- my dream is to live as a writer and a creator. Some other things I love: reading, singing with my choir buds, Mumford & Sons and Oh Wonder, The Book Thief, Hamilton, Jack Kerouac and Thoreau, appreciating any type of art, opinion pieces (!!), and Victor Logan, my plant that I miraculously haven't killed yet. 
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