After a series of sexual assault allegations were made against celebrities this past week, there has been a lot of debate about who to believe in each situation: the accused or the victim.
Ansel Elgort, an actor most famously known for his role as Augustus Waters in the book-to-movie adaptation of "The Fault in Our Stars," was accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old back in 2014, when he would have been 20 years old. The Twitter user, @ItsGabby posted a detailed explanation of her experience with Elgort, describing their messages starting just a few days after her seventeenth birthday, and eventually leading to Elgort sexually assaulting her. Gabby has since deleted her account after suffering significant backlash, and Elgort has denied her claims, though he did confirm they had been in a "consensual" relationship briefly in 2014.
Not long after the allegations against Ansel Elgort surfaced, two young women posted their own stories of sexual assault with another man in Hollywood. This time, Justin Bieber. Danielle, whose last name has not been publicized as her account was anonymous, and Kadi (@ItsnotKadi on Twitter) both posted to Twitter about their individual experiences with Bieber. Both offered specific details of their experiences, as well as explanations as to why it took them "so long" to speak out. Bieber went on to post what was aimed to be proof of his innocence on Twitter as well. However, after analysis, much of the "proof" he provided was either deemed irrelevant, insignificant, or just untrue.
Finally, Cole Sprouse, a Disney child actor and currently famous for his role as Jughead on The CW's "Riverdale," was accused of sexual assault as well. This young woman, going by Victoria, described Sprouse sexually assaulting her while they both attended a party at NYU. This account was also anonymous, and of course, Sprouse denied the claims.
All of these consecutive claims, among others, sparked a debate about who to believe. Sexual assault is such a difficult topic to discuss, and it requires a certain level of sensitivity. That being said, I truly believe that in instances of sexual assault claims, especially involving celebrities, we should always believe the survivor.
My reasoning for this is simple. Let's say that I'm wrong either way. I would much rather believe a liar than protect or defend a rapist.
Let me be clear: false accusations are never OK. Not only can it hurt someone's life (if, and only if, the accuser has more power than the accused), but it harms real victims. It hurts their credibility.
In fact, a fan account for Cole Sprouse on Twitter decided the best way to defend their favorite celebrity would be to create fake accounts accusing other Riverdale cast members of sexual assault. Sprouse's co-stars Lili Reinhart, Vanessa Morgan, and KJ Apa were all accused.
Once the account believed they had made their point, they revealed that they had tweeted those claims in an attempt to prove that people would "believe anything." While their intention was to help Cole, at the end of the day, all they really did was make it harder for true survivors to share their stories and be believed.
I can sympathize with those who looked up to these celebrities, I can. Idolizing celebrities and supporting them so much that you feel as if you know them is not uncommon, especially in the age of social media. But truthfully, no matter how much you think they seem nice on talk shows or how sweet they are on Instagram, we don't know them. We've never met them, and we have absolutely no idea what they are capable of.
It can be difficult to acknowledge that someone you looked up to isn't who you thought they were, and that's OK. What isn't OK is invalidating survivors, and going as far to do something that will only invalidate future survivors who want to tell their stories.
Especially in the case of celebrities as powerful as these, this is not going to touch their careers. They will continue having power, fame, money, and success. They will be fine.
These women that they traumatized won't be. They are just trying to share their story — whether it be for their own benefit of finally getting it off their chest, or so others can be wary in the future, their intentions are good. Many claim that these women just want attention or clout. This argument is just illogical because the only "attention" they receive, or at least the majority of it, is overwhelmingly negative. Especially in the cases of these celebrities with huge fan bases, these girls face death threats and horrible online scrutiny. As for clout... how exactly is an anonymous account meant to be looking for clout?
Maybe these women didn't provide enough proof for you. But this isn't a courtroom, you aren't on a jury. These women are just asking for support and empathy. They are trying to bring awareness to their situation.
"Why didn't they report it, then?"
Well, first consider that many of these victims were fans of these celebrities and they cannot financially compare to people like Justin Bieber. Celebrities would easily be able to get out of this legally. Not to mention the trauma that would come with reporting this and going through a trial.
"Why believe their word over these celebrities?"
As I said, these women have nothing to gain from this. If you can believe that a woman, out of boredom, would bring up her notes app and write a long, made-up story about getting raped by a celebrity and then post it on Twitter anonymously, but you can't believe these men with all the fame and power in the world might take advantage of that, you are choosing to ignore these women.
Coming out and telling your story about sexual assault is an extremely difficult thing to do. The least we can do is give these women the benefit of the doubt and make them feel heard.
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