Some truths are facts, certain as far as anything can be, supportable by empirical, statistical and observational evidence. Gravity, for example – the presence of oxygen and the process of osmosis. These are facts, which are true, and would be factually true with or without anyone believing it.
Of course some people will argue that the facts are different and provide other evidence – often terribly dubious in their origin and spun, nay twisted, like so much hot glass or woven sugar on a cake – in to something which looks like a fact, but isn’t.
Flat Earth believers, for example. Despite all evidence to the contrary, they believe that the earth is flat. Does it impact on the lives of the people we love and care about that they believe this? No, not really. It doesn’t stop them being kind to their neighbours (at least I would hope not), or paying their taxes. It’s a foolish myth, but not a dangerous one. It doesn’t perpetuate oppression to believe it, or make the lives of vulnerable people more difficult to share such a belief with others. They believe it to be true, and believe the evidence to be factual.
But some truths are not facts.
Some truths are personal – they might be an individuals lived experience of something that many others have not shared; a personal realisation or awakening, a message decoded through a dream which leads to a better understanding. These are not less true by being only personally true to one or a few people. Something does not have to be universally true to be valid. Much of human experience is like this: there are common themes and threads, and yet also distinctive incidents. Grief, for example. Most people have the experience of losing a friend or loved one, but every person experiences grief differently and may find that every experience of grief is different than before.
Some truths are real then, but not true for you – or me.
I am a Christian – this a personal truth, a fact about me, and an act of faith and hope. My personal truths inform me about the existence of God, facts inform me about the existence of Jesus. Faith teaches me that Jesus was the Divine Incarnate. I will share this belief, appropriately within the given conversation, and I will share this belief in how I behave – after all, I believe that God created us all in Her image and so, even when it might be hard to, I will try and find some way to reflect that. No, I am not terribly holy: I am human and imperfect so sometimes I will lose patience, or feel less than charitable, or find that the kindest thing to do for myself is to walk away. And yes, I swear – sometimes a lot, especially if I shut my thumb in a car door, like I did last year.
And sometimes the most faithful and true thing I can do is not walk away but speak up: because sometimes a fact is a fact that is true – sometimes the Earth is not flat now matter how much you believe it to be.
Rape myths are ideas which are not based in empirical, statistical evidence. Rape myths are not based on facts. A myth is defined in the following manner:
An ancient story or set of stories. A commonly believed – but false – idea. A popular belief that is not true.
Rape myths fall under this descriptor: despite the statistical evidence which clearly shows that deliberate false claims of rape are in the tiny minority of cases, there are some who truly believe most claims are false. Despite the clear statistical and empirical evidence that the majority of those raped and abused are the victims of people known to them, there are still those who only believe it is real rape if the rapist is a stranger who drags his victims down a darkened alley. And whilst so much evidence proves otherwise, there are those who believe that rape is only violent if the rapist threatens his victim with a knife.
In other words, some people are like those who believe in a Flat Earth – they believe these things to be true, and some who believe it passionately will even have ‘evidence’ which looks factual, but is neither fact, or truth. And it doesn’t mean that those people can’t be kind to their dogs, or nice to their elderly neighbours, and you can’t make laws for the weird things that people think.
But we do have to consider how those beliefs impact on the most vulnerable group of people, in the context of what they think and believe: the rape victims. The ones who almost never see justice in the courts; the ones who probably will never report because they are terrified of never being believed; those whose voices are silenced by fear and the pervasive myths which, despite being wrong, heap further scars on already scarred and wounded hearts.
For those who bear that cross, for those who carry that burden, for those who are imprisoned in the fear that such harmful, dangerous and toxic myths perpetuate, voices must be raised and must be heard. Because one day, those who believe in those rape myths will be like those who believe in a Flat Earth: a harmless minority, with odd ideas that the rest of us don’t understand, but who will, by their diminishing, become harmless.
And that might not be a fact, yet – and it is certainly an article of faith. But it will be true, one day, because the earth is not flat and it never has been.