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Naomi Wolf and Jaclyn Friedman Debate Julian Assange's Rape Charges

Noted feminists go head to head about how we should think about the allegations against the Wikileaks founder.

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JACLYN FRIEDMAN: We can say allegations. Certainly these women are alleging a crime.

What I want to say is that these are—the details, certainly, have become more clear since that unauthorized leak, but we’ve known those basic facts for weeks, that the allegations—in fact, we’ve known them since August, that the allegations were that he held one woman down, that he raped another in her sleep. These allegations have been out there. The Guardian has been reporting them.

Rape is a very serious crime, and it’s also one of the most underreported crimes across the globe. And one of the reasons is because every time the issue comes up in the media, people come out of the woodwork to blame the victims and to minimize the crime. And unfortunately, when we see someone who is a progressive hero, like Assange is, those critics, those people who are doing that minimization and that victim blaming often come from the left, as well as the right. And we’ve seen that across the board. Unfortunately, with—Naomi Wolf has participated in that, as well as Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann, Glenn Beck—of course, plenty of people on the right are participating, as well.

And the result of that is not only that these women are receiving death threats, they are in hiding—one of them has gone to Palestine, because she couldn’t feel safe in Sweden anymore—but the even more important result of that, when we perpetuate rape myths in the media—and this is not just my opinion, this has been documented by social research—is that victims, nameless victims, victims who have been harmed by people who are not famous, become much more reluctant to take their experiences seriously, to report those experiences. The system, the justice system that’s supposed to work for those victims—the cops, the juries, the prosecutors, the judges—they become much more reluctant to take these allegations seriously when they are reported. And men become less likely to identify their own behavior as sexually violent. And the result of all of that is that rapists go free.

And what we know about that is, the majority of rapists are repeat rapists. So, the result of perpetuating these rape myths in the mass media is that we literally are creating more rape in the world. And that’s my main concern about the way these allegations have been discussed so far, is that it’s doing real harm to real women around the world who have nothing to do with this case.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Wolf, your response?

NAOMI WOLF: Thank you. Well, Jaclyn, let me say that I’m very, very offended that you’re suggesting that I’m blaming the victim. In fact, it’s because of my 23 years of supporting rape victims, working in rape crisis centers, traveling around the world, to report more than any journalist I know, which, in a way, I’ve been very blessed to have had the chance to do so, from Sierra Leone to Bosnia to Ireland to the United Kingdom, interviewing people who support rape victims and work with the legal system—it’s because of that that I’m raising my voice about these very ambiguous and corrupt allegations.

First of all, let me just correct you. And Jaclyn, these— The Guardian account, which is based on leaked original documents, doesn’t say that he had sex with either of these women without their consent. The reason I’m hearing from rape victims across the world who are emailing me, saying, "I’m a rape victim. Thank you for standing up to put these charges in context," is that this is the only case I’ve ever seen in 23 years of supporting rape victims which is based on multiple instances of consent.

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