Georgia State Representative Bobby Franklin has introduced a bill that would re-classify rape victims as “accusers” until the accused was found guilty.
There is a lot to unpack here.
We do not, as a rule, say someone is a murder “accuser” until the accused has been found guilty of murder. They are a murder victim, and it is the job of the justice and legal system to find the person responsible and hold them accountable. We also do not refer to people who have been robbed as “accusers” until they determine who is guilty of the crime; they are victims of a robbery, whether the person who robbed them is ever found and convicted or not. The status of the person against whom the crime was perpetrated, in the legal system, has nothing to do with the status of the accused, who in every instance, including cases of rape, is indeed (or certainly should be), in the eyes of the legal system, only the accused, and innocent until proven guilty.
The law on the floor in Georgia would also apply to victims of stalking, harassment, and family violence. Is anyone else noting a trend, here? No, please, jump in if you think I’m crazy, by for those of you keeping score at home, I’m calling that 4 to 0 for crimes overwhelming committed by male-identified individuals against female-identified individuals. Fascinating, no? It is almost enough to make one suspect that this is not a coincidence.
This law would make the starting point for rape, harassment, domestic violence and stalking cases the victim. Once it is determined that those who come forward about these kinds of crime, already nearly impossible to prosecute, are themselves merely accusers, merely a person claiming something happened rather than a victim to be protected by the law, “I was raped” becomes a very different jumping off point than “I was robbed”, and not just because of the extreme and complex mental, emotional and physical toll. It becomes a different jumping off point because this law states, in effect, that the legal system is under no obligation to believe you. You come forward not as a victim, with every right to be heard and protected, but as an accuser, with a great deal to prove.
In many, many instances and places in this country, having been raped is a condition for being allowed to receive an abortion.
This law has the ability to greatly complicate already complicated access to a legal medical procedure.
Women’s access to a procedure they may need for any number of physical and mental reasons has been nearly inextricably linked over time and through policy to a vicious crime many people see as subjective and open to interpretation. This is intensely problematic, and as what I am rapidly coming to consider a full-out assault on women’s lives and bodies in this country continues at an inconceivable pace, the problematic nature of that legislation is becoming ever more obvious.
Under the best of circumstances not long ago, with a Democratic president and on-and-off Democratic majorities in the federal and state governments, pro-choice activists remained mostly quiet as abortion was categorized as something that should be “safe, legal, and rare”. Access was better, really, than it had ever been; it seemed not only unnecessary but possibly detrimental to rock the boat. But every concession made to what is commonly but I believe misguidedly categorized as “reason” simply creates a new line in the sand. We want to see that line as a compromise; people who are anti-choice simply see that as the new jumping off point for negotiations, and their negotiation tactics are increasingly more brutal. I believe what we are seeing here is a trend from “safe, legal, and rare” to “technically available and legal in certain places and rare” right on down to just plain “rare” straight through to “no”. And you would be hard-pressed to make me believe that it is a coincidence that every legislative initiative that seeks to define the parameters of women’s bodies’ experiences is linked.