As if redefining rape weren’t offensive enough

AS IF REDEFINING RAPE WEREN’T OFFENSIVE ENOUGH…. In Washington, Republicans included an outrageous provision in their “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” that would have redefined rape. GOP proponents had the sense to drop the measure this week, but not before offending a whole lot of decent people.

Further south, there’s another rape-related GOP measure that’s even harder to believe.

Georgia Republican state Rep. Bobby Franklin (of gold-standard-wannabe fame) has introduced a bill to change the state’s criminal codes so that in “criminal law and criminal procedure” (read: in court), victims of rape, stalking, and family violence could only be referred to as “accusers” until the defendant has been convicted.

Burglary victims are still victims. Assault victims are still victims. Fraud victims are still victims. But if you have the misfortune to suffer a rape, or if you are beaten by a domestic partner, or if you are stalked, Rep. Franklin doesn’t think you’ve been victimized. He says you’re an accuser until the courts have determined otherwise.

To diminish a victim’s ordeal by branding him/her an accuser essentially questions whether the crime committed against the victim is a crime at all. Robbery, assault, and fraud are all real crimes with real victims, the Republican asserts with this bill.

If you’re thinking, “This can’t be true,” I’m afraid it is. Amanda Terkel tracked down the legislative language. Her report added:

Rape and sexual assault are chronically underreported crimes. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, “60% of rapes/sexual assaults are not reported to the police, according to a statistical average of the past 5 years. Those rapists, of course, never spend a day in prison. Factoring in unreported rapes, only about 6% of rapists ever serve a day in jail.” Under Franklin’s definition, all of these people who didn’t report their crimes aren’t actually victims — because there is never a conviction.

“To be classified, off the bat, as an accuser instead of as a victim places one more barrier to reporting the crime to the authorities,” writes Amie Newman at RH Reality Check, who points out that Franklin’s state of Georgia ranks 11th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia for incidences of forcible rape.

Jennifer White, attorney for legal programs at the Family Violence Prevention Fund, said that even when victims do come forward, prosecutions and convictions are still often incredibly difficult to get.

“Changing, just for these particular crimes, the word ‘victim’ to ‘accuser’ really buys into an outdated and disproved myth about victims who come forward with these kinds of allegations,” said White. “I think it’s a sad reality that for some reason, it’s easier for society, in some respects, to believe that a victim would fabricate this type of crime than to believe that a person is capable of committing certain atrocities. And it really has a chilling effect for victims who already have an extremely difficult time coming forward.”